Transferable skills working in a bar

Develop Your Staff: 10 Transferable Skills you can gain from working in a Bar

We’ve all had the problem. You’ve searched for that new, perfect job. You have downloaded the application pack, read through the job description and updated your CV. Then comes the part where you have to tell your potential future employer about your experience! What they want to here about is your skills and what transferable skills you have picked up from your experiences.

I’ve always said that some people are good at applying for jobs and some people just aren’t. The problem with this is that the people who aren’t as skilled at putting in applications and being interviewed may be the best employees if only they could sell themselves better.

One issue I see often is that people do not see the value in the skills they have learned over the years whether these are life skills or experiences that they have gained in previous employment. Being able to recognise these skills and then being able to communicate them can really give you the edge in a job interview or application process.

Everyone who gets a job interview has already proved that they could do the role through their application. You need to show them that you have the skills that make you better than the others!

What Are Transferable Skills?

Working in a bar is one place where you can pick up a whole host of transferable skills that you can use in life. You may not realise it but potential employers aren’t too concerned about where you picked up the skill. What they are looking for is your ability to recognise them, reflect on them and say how you put them to use.

How many times have you seen an application question or been asked in an interview to ‘tell us about a time when you have (insert situation here) and how did you deal with the situation’. Your potential employer is wanting you to reflect on your experience so they can see that you can recognise your transferable skills. It doesn’t matter what field you are looking to work in, being able to give an example of something you have done in previous employment shows that you are someone who could work well with them. What you have to do is be able to recognise those situations.

Transferable skills from working in a bar

Maybe you are reading this as a bar manager, restaurant manager or owner of a hospitality business. Recognising the skills that you can offer your employees will help them in their development. Don’t think that developing your staff’s employability skills is a bad thing. Your staff want to feel that they are invested in and valued. It’s human nature. Staff that feel valued will work harder and they will value your employment opportunity more. If you are an employee in one of these businesses then ask your manager what are the skills that employers are looking for in people and how can your current employer help you to develop further.

Here are my 10 Transferable Skills you can learn from working in a bar!

Conflict management: Bars, pubs and nightclubs are unfortunately notorious for conflict. Don’t get me wrong, not all of them are places where fights break out every weekend or with reputations for trouble. Conflict can be at all levels and being able to manage conflict is a very useful skill that employers desire in their employees.
A customer that who is unhappy with the service could create a situation that quickly escalates if the person dealing with the complaint is not skilled at conflict management. Two members of the bar team who do not work well together could potentially create a situation that could get out of hand if there is not someone who can manage the conflict and defuse the situation. Being able to recognise potential conflicts is the first step to managing them. Being able to see where your intervention could help is another. Do not try to manage a conflict that is above your skill level to deal with. Remember that being able to recognise when to defer something to someone more skilled is something that employers may want to hear about also in an example regarding conflict management.

Cash handling: A bit of an obvious one but do not underestimate what an example regarding cash handling could show to your potential employer. Handling cash shows a level of trust from your employer and working in a bar there is a lot of cash going through the tills. What examples of cash handling skills could you use? Well, maybe you once recognised that you had given a customer the wrong change. Sounds trivial but if you follow it up with a story of how you recognised this and what you did about it then it is now an example for you to use. Follow it up further with the steps you took to make sure you didn’t do it again and it now shows that you have flexibility and the capability to adapt. Maybe there was a time when your manager needed help with banking or cashing up a till? There are lots of cash handling situations when working in a bar, you just have to see the value in them.

Customer service: A great example of customer service goes a long way to show your interviewer what kind of person you are. I suspect this will be one of the easiest topics to think of an example for as it is quite a recognisable skill. Again, don’t think that an example regarding customer service in a bar and restaurant is any less valuable to an employer in a completely different field. All business rely on customer service to a certain level and being able to show that you are aware of the importance of giving customers the best experience will go a long way in the eyes of interviewers. Make a list of all the different types of customer service that you give in the day to day workings of a bar and I can guarantee that you will remember an example that will really be of interest in an interview. Don’t forget that an example of bad customer service is also of interest. Being able to see where you have made a mistake in the past and how you rectified this is just as good as telling your potential employers about all the good things you have done!

Teamwork: All the best bars rely on good teamwork! Teamwork shows your future employers that you can work with others and that you can adapt well in a new role. Give examples of how you helped to induct new staff or maybe how you helped to keep a team motivated during a busy shift and it will make you look like a real team player! Is there a time when you worked in a bad or underperforming team? Give this as an example and tell your interviewer why you thought the team didn’t function properly. What would you do differently if you were in that team again to get people to cooperate better together?

Leadership: You may not have many example of leadership as this is something that people often attribute to managers but it is not always the case. Being a manager does not make you a leader and being a leader doesn’t make you a manager. There is a phrase when it comes to leadership and management that goes “Managers do things right whereas Leaders do the right thing”. Being a leader means that you have the confidence of the troops. It means that people believe in you and you inspire them to do more and be at their best. Give an example of when you have inspired the team to a great result and you have shown you have the leadership skills that your interviewer is looking for!

Time management: Employers want to know that you have good time management. This doesn’t mean that you show up for work on time…well, it does, but it’s not just about that. Time management shows that you have the ability to see something through in a set period of time. It shows that you are trustworthy to deliver an outcome within a timeframe set out by your manager. Being on a busy shift in a bar needs good time management. You need to have the skills to be able to complete all the tasks needed to set the bar up, get open on time, serve the customers in a timely manner and then close up without spending too long and getting distracted. These are all areas of time management. I’m sure there are loads more you can think of within your own experiences working in bars.

Listening: Listening is such an important skill but it is often not recognised. Serving on a bar you will need to have great listening skills. Being able to remember that fifteen drink order from a customer who has had a little too much to drink can be a tough task. Add deafening music and the loud voices coming from the busy room and being able to listen well gets much, much harder!

Listening to the brief given by your manager or supervisor at the beginning of a shift is important. If you miss a vital piece of information about the night ahead then you’ve not shown good listening skills. Not understanding the nature of a customer’s complaint because you are too worried about the increasing number of other customers waiting to be served is an example of bad listening skills. Sometimes customers just want to be listened to and as a person working in a customer facing business having the skill to listen to them can really make the difference. Employees really want to know that you have these skills. They can help you become a better manager and leader and it is a great way to improve your interpersonal skills.

Written communication: We live in a world where emails, social media and text messages are just part of our daily life. We are all getting much better at communicating by these mediums and employers want to know about your skills. Working in a bar may not be the most obvious place for written communication but there are examples if you look for them. Think about promotional material that you may have been asked to write such as a blackboard or specials board. How did you communicate clearly to the customers? Think about taking a food order that goes through to the kitchen with a number of modifiers and substitutions on the items. How was this communicated to the chefs so that the customer got what they asked for?


Verbal communication: Working in a bar you’ll have lots of examples of verbal communication. Talking to customers and building up rapport with them shows that you have great interpersonal skills. Talking with fellow members of staff and communicating with the team through busy shifts so that you have a successful night shows great communication skills. If you have been involved in training new staff then showing and explaining to them the ins and outs of working in the bar needs a high level of verbal skills. If that person then goes on to be a fantastic bartender then you have an example of remarkable verbal communication skills.

Number skills: Just like with cash handling you will have a vast amount of number skills examples. Remembering the prices of numerous products and being able to add them up in your head shows that you are great with numbers. Remember that not everybody is a numbers person. A simple example such as this could be the difference between landing your new role and not.

Think about the transferable skills you have learned

I hope that this article has helped you to see where you have potentially developed skills that you may not have realised you had. Use examples in your applications and interviews and your future employers will love it. Remember, if you get a job interview you may be one of ten people that have already shown that you have the ability to do the job through the application process. What interviewers are looking for is who you are and what value you can bring to their business. It’s all about selling yourself and having examples of your experiences and what you learned from them are the best way to do that.

Staff development and other useful tips and advice is covered in our eBook “Do You Need Help Running Your Bar?” which is available now on Amazon

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