“Why isn’t that listed on your resume?”

That question, asked by Jeff Lambert in my very first interview, will be with me throughout the rest of my professional life. That question came after I told him about my years in the restaurant service industry and my current bartending gig. Until that moment, and truth be told, until I had spent some time in the PR world, I never realized the correlation between the hospitality industry and what we do daily for our clients. You can bet if I ever apply for another job (which I never will, don’t worry team), the decade of time I’ve devoted to ensuring top-notch service for hungry and thirsty patrons will be included on my resume.
How does it relate? If you’ve never spent time taking orders, it may be difficult to understand how a job in a restaurant lends itself to a better understanding of customer relations. Let me educate you on the similarities and tell you how a job behind the bar can equip you for a PR job behind a desk.

Communication and Client Relations
Working with clients day and night is an important chunk of our lives. Because of the size of our firm, people at all levels have the chance to communicate directly with the client, even if it’s your second day on the job. We should be ready to demonstrate our reliability, professionalism and expertise to our clients and on their behalf when talking with the media. Communication is the heart of what we do and after serving thousands of people and making customers the focal point of everything I’ve done while at the restaurant, client service becomes a natural fit. Taking orders and listening to what the customer wants helped prepare me to truly listen to clients – to better understand their needs and goals. Remaining upbeat and positive in even the most stressful situations is great practice for crisis communications and prioritizing customer experience over all else provides the relentless desire to do a great job, keep the client happy and keep them coming back year after year by producing desired results.

Whether we call it “sales” or not, we spend our days “selling” our clients to the media, influencers or shareholders, regardless if it’s a new program, a new product or an event. We work with media to disseminate messaging for clients, essentially “selling” their business to promote their work and raise awareness for their company with the goal of improving their bottom line. Working in restaurants requires selling constantly – sell yourself with great service, sell higher priced food and drinks to increase your tips and sell an experience at the restaurant with the hopes that customers will return. Whether servers or bartenders realize it, the purpose of great customer service is to increase the bottom line for the establishment. In PR, we spend our days gaining media coverage to “sell” our clients for their benefit and the benefit of the firm as whole.

While likening the skill of making a martini to writing a press release is a stretch, the core skill of customer service is the same for both professions. My blood, sweat and many, many tears in restaurants unknowingly armed me with the ability to build, form and keep relationships with my clients and establish rapport with media contacts that will in turn, serve me for years to come. Now, who wants a drink?

Valerie Pesonen is an Associate at Lambert