Wondering how to become a bartender that anyone will want to hire? Simple. Develop the attitude that the best of the best will always want on their team
If you read our recent article on how to get a bartending job, you probably noticed that all 3 of the bar managers we interviewed unanimously said attitude is the most important quality they look at when considering candidates.
(btw, if you haven’t read that article and you’re looking for actionable strategies to help you become a bartender and land your dream job, go read it now).
Becoming a bartender that any bar in the world will hire is really about one thing:
Becoming the kind of person that any bar in the world will hire.
While that might sound a tad simplistic, continuously working on your attitude and character will transfer to (and enhance) all aspects of your life — and any bar in the world would be dying to have you as a result.
We’ve put together 4 steps that you can take today to do this.
Think about why the owner of an establishment would want to hire someone with an amazing attitude. It’s because these people:
- Attract better regulars (and keep them in their seats)
- Attract the best team members who want to help the business grow
- Are great to work with because they’re fun, supportive, and eager
- Improve the culture of their establishment so that everyone is more aligned, excited, and happy
- And more…
So, without further ado, these are the 4 ways you can develop your mindset to help you become the bartender (and person) that any bar in the world will hire.
How to Become The Ultimately Employable Bartender: A Simple Guide
Part 1: Cultivate a growth mindset
In her book, Mindset, Carol Dweck uncovers how cultivating a growth mindset can lead to success.
As she describes it, our mindset can strongly “affect what we want and whether we succeed in getting it”, whether it’s done consciously, or not.
In her book, she asks “what are the consequences of thinking that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop, as opposed to something that is a fixed, deep-seated trait?”
An interesting question, especially when put into the context of becoming a bartender. To answer it, start by asking yourself if any of the following sound familiar to you:
- I like to stick to what I know
- I haaate being challenged — I know my stuff
- I can’t do much to change my abilities; I’m either good at it, or I’m not
If these feel familiar, then take note: they are all telltale indicators of a fixed mindset. And the problem is that most bar owners are growth-oriented — they want their business and their culture to grow.
So if you find that you generally have a fixed mindset, it’s time to begin adopting some new ways of thinking.
(Bonus: growth mindsets perform extremely well in interview situations. This means that if you have a growth mindset, there’s little preparation you’ll need to do for your interview other than do some research on the establishment, and be yourself. Pretty cool, huh?)
Here are some growth-mindset antidotes to the fixed-mindset examples above:
- I’m excited to try new things
- Challenges are great! They help me to grow
- I can learn to do whatever the heck I want (and to that we add, you can do it to a level of excellence)
Carol Dweck has created a test on her website, if you want to see where your mindset’s at.
And here’s a helpful graphic from Nigel Holmes:
Part 2: Get clear on what you want
“The discipline of desire is the background of character” — John Locke
When you get clear on what the big, juicy desire is that you have in your life, things begin to organize themselves so that you can achieve the things that you’re after.
But there’s a catch:
In our culture, it’s actually very rare for us to be able to articulate what it is we really want — it feels greedy, or selfish, to talk about those things.
Thinking big actually inspires others to do the same.
Now you might be wondering, “Okay, but what does this have to do with my question of how to become a better bartender?’
Well, look at it this way:
At The Nimble Bar School, we ask our students to do a goal-setting exercise that acts as a springboard for those who haven’t thought much about what they really want.
It’s important because we teach our students not to think of bartending as means to a small end (like paying the bills), but as part of a powerful arsenal that will help them get to a great big end (like their dream home, career, lifestyle freedom, or something else that’s really worth pursuing).
If you can realize exactly how bartending can fit into your big picture, you’ll be more motivated to see it through to whatever success looks like for you.
Remember: if you add just one bartending shift a week to your work-life, that’s an average of an extra $220.00 per week (or $11,440 per year). If you save and invested that for 4 years, you’d have approximately $50,000.00 saved — more than enough for a down payment on a house, startup capital, debt repayment, etc.
Want to get a head start on your bartending goals? Consider joining the next course of the Nimble Bartending School.
Part 3: Develop the muscle of alacrity
That was my initial reaction too. But for anyone wondering how to become a bartender of world-class proportions, alacrity is key.
To explain alacrity (and how it applies to becoming a bartender) let’s take a gander at this classic quote:
“I do the very best I know how — the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”
— Abraham Lincoln
‘Honest Abe’ said that when he was 6 months into his presidency.
It sounds kinda like something you’d read in a children’s book, yet it was said by the most powerful person in the world, at the time.
This is what alacrity sounds like. You just keep cheerfully doing the very best you can.
Here’s the definition of alacrity:
Alacrity: promptness of response : cheerful readiness : eager willingness
This is the attitude that got Abraham Lincoln to the White House, and it’s the attitude that gets many others where they want to go in the world.
Here are two practical ways you can effectively apply an attitude of alacrity today:
Practice enthusiasm and cheerfulness using one simple mechanism: smiling
Proactively solve a business problem and present your proposed solutions to someone who will find great relief in your initiative
Want a cool way to demonstrate this proactivity, that could easily land you a bartending gig at your dream bar? Dream up 3 big ideas that will help that bar improve its business, and send one to the owner (without expectation of anything in return).
Here are some word-for-word examples of 3 big ideas:
- The drinks at your bar are amazing. I’m wondering how many hours per week are spent prepping all the ingredients that go into those drinks? In a bar I’ve worked at previously, we delegated our prep to the kitchen team – it saved tons of hours of labour, and produced even better ingredients.
- You have a super impressive/expansive back bar. Lots of inventory! I imagine it could be quite challenging for new staff to learn about. Have you thought about cataloguing some of the top selling spirits from each category with evocative descriptors that will help them sell these products with more confidence (and speed)? I’d be happy to help.
- Garnishes and the way your drinks are presented at your bar are outstanding. In my experience, taking a culinary approach to cocktails can lead to quite a bit of waste (particularly in the citrus department). Have you experimented with dehydrated garnishes? Some wonderful examples I’ve used are lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, candied ginger, rose buds, and more. They look beautiful, last forever, and the best part? Waaay less waste. If you’d like me to source some dehydrated garnishes for you to test, let me know.
You could, over time, even send 3 separate emails with each idea. I assure you that if you do this a few times, you will get your foot in the door.
(I believe in this tactic so much that I’ll offer you a guarantee: if you try this and don’t see success, send me an email and I’ll personally help you).
Part 4: Be other-focused (aka lose your ego)
This one is simple, but not easy.
Thing is, it’s absolutely essential to get right if you want to become a bartender that a-heeeeenyone would want to hire.
Why, you ask? Put simply: working in the service industry means you gotta prioritise those you’re serving (err… duh).
Hey, we know as well as anyone who’s worked behind the wood that it’s easy to succumb to emotional reactions when a customer complains their drink “isn’t strong enough” (or whatever it may be in a given scenario.) But there’s a big difference between standing your ground when necessary, and overreacting when your ego feels threatened.
Training your ego to take a back seat is a sure-fire way to put you on track to becoming a stellar bartender (and an awesome person to work alongside, too).
There are two specific ways you can practice the art of losing your ego:
Think about what you can give, instead of what’s in it for you
When cultivating the traits needed to help you become an awesome bartender, you should always be thinking about what you can do for the establishment and the people who work there.
Start by asking yourself questions like:
‘How can I enrich their lives?’ and ‘what can I give them?’
This circles back to our earlier point about scoping out ways to improve the business (remember our examples about inventory, dehydrated stock, and getting prep support from the kitchen? If not, refresh your memory up above!).
Always be on the lookout for ways you can create value for your team. Because doing this well makes you valuable to them — which will end up far better for you in the long run than simply prioritizing your short term gains.
2. Think about how you can listen more
Most folks think bartenders are talkers, but a seriously good bartender is one who has mastered the art of listening.
As Ryan Holiday — master of ego-squashing — so eloquently put it:
“And that’s what is so insidious about talk. Anyone can talk about himself or herself. Even a child knows how to gossip and chatter. Most people are decent at hype and sales. So what is scarce and rare? Silence. The ability to deliberately keep yourself out of the conversation and subsist without its validation. Silence is the respite of the confident and the strong.”
Yep, the old adage that silence is golden is as relevant behind the bar as it is anywhere else.
And you know what?
It’s not only the silence that’s golden, but also the space you create for your customers to do the talking. After all, what’s better than a good chit-chat to unload the stresses of the day? It’ll make your patrons feel at home, at ease, and excited to come back to see you again.
The best bars in the world will be proud to have you representing them – if you remember to practice these skills:
- Develop your ‘growth-mindset.’
- Be clear with yourself about your goals.
- Remember: Alacrity.
- Ditch the ego.
These are the differences between a decent bartender, and a Master of their Craft. Which side of that equation do you fall on? It’s your call – and it’s never too late to switch sides.