Tony Monroe pours beer at Three Floyds Brewery and Brewpub in Munster, Ind.,… (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago…)
Hey college grads, are you fed up because you paid all that money for a degree and can't use it because the job market is saturated? Are you thinking about the 20-something Hail Mary pass of grad school because you don't know what else to do? Maybe you don't have to.
Instead of diving deeper into college debt, let me present another option: the restaurant industry.
I know, you're all thinking something like, "But I have a degree in business/philosophy/sandwiches! I'm gonna do bigger things than wait tables!" And that's great, but hear me out on this one. Here is why everyone should work a year in the restaurant industry.
You will be paid in cash every day if you wait tables or tend bar. You will ALWAYS have cash. You will have an uncomfortable amount of cash, and you will have to make frequent trips to the bank.
You will learn how to save some of that cash or else you will eat nothing but ramen. I'm serious. You might get really excited because you worked on a Friday night and made $300, but if you go out later that night and blow it all at some late-night bar, you will be pretty cranky with yourself. Just saying.
I don't care what kind of industry you want to work in—no matter what job you have in whatever city you live in, someone will be a jerk to you while you're working. This is especially true at restaurants. For some reason, customers like to be jerks to servers and bartenders. While you're waiting tables, you will learn to deal with every kind of personality/mood combination there is, which can only help you when you decide you're going to work somewhere else.
Chicago is a city that loves its snacks and beverages. There is no better place for learning about these two things than the service industry. You'll probably be inspired to learn how to cook and make some fun drinks, and you'll expand your palate like crazy.
I don't mean that in the "you'll be humiliated" way; I mean it in the "you'll be humble" way. A lot of people traditionally look at restaurant jobs as "not real jobs"—which is pretty crappy because for a lot of people, it is a real job. You'll appreciate and depend on working with a team.
You'll learn how to tip and behave in a restaurant, and the rest of us who work in restaurants will love you for it. Also, once you're in the industry, you get to take advantage of "industry nights" and "industry pricing." Restaurant folks take care of each other, pretty much forever.
You will never, ever bring work home with you in the service industry. Unless you're trying out new recipes at home, and then you probably won't mind so much.
You'll have a job
You'll be able to pay your rent and your bills and live your life and buy some cool things and take some cool trips and not worry about not having a job. Which is pretty much what we all want, right?
So, before you blow $200 on grad school applications, instead consider spending a year getting a completely different education in the service industry. You can still go use your business/philosophy/sandwiches degree afterward.
RedEye special contributor Stacey Andeen is a Chicago bartender.
Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.