Last week I started a new job. It was not a job I expected to be returning to after over 20 years but these are strange times we are living in. I use the word “job” quite loosely – paid volunteering may be a more realistic term. I have started doing some shifts at my local pub to help out.
What led to this huge side step from my day job as a digital health strategist? A few weeks back when a local friend and I popped to the pub on a Friday we noticed it was closed. A closed pub on a Friday night is not a good sign. After asking around I found out they were closed due to lack of staff. After the struggles of having to close during lockdown only to have to close at what should be their busiest time of the year was heartbreaking.
As a student I did tons of pub work, and in fact my very first job was in this very same pub. I used to love working behind the bar, getting to meet new people or chatting to the regulars. My social life, like so many people, has taken a hit since Covid. There is also the fact that I now live in rural Suffolk so the social life is not quite like London or Zurich. So it seemed to me that doing a few shifts at my local would be a win win. They would have extra staff until they found a more permanent solution. I would get to go out and meet new people in my village.
I was pleasantly surprised after my first shift. Whilst it was a bit daunting after all these years it was also great fun. A benefit I had not really factored in was the mental benefit. I work remotely from home so getting to work with people face to face, as part of a team, felt great. I also hope having to quickly remember people’s orders is helpful for memory training. My autoimmune disease has definitely impacted my memory so I should be doing more brain training anyway. It also feels strangely rewarding and exhilarating to get through a busy shift.
I have also noticed a few other things from my pub work. Firstly how friendly people are and how pleasant it is to be thanked for your work – each time you deliver (whether or not you do an exceptional job). I have also found that my experience with difficult customers is invaluable. We have had a few customers who the other bar staff complained were unfriendly and complaining about everything. I volunteered to serve them and found that by smiling and listening, and being reassuring, they were fine. In fact the worst offenders came over to thank me when they left the pub.
This made me realise that all that time I spent working in a pub as a student was actually teaching me valuable skills. Whilst many of my friends got job experience working in offices I was dealing face to face with people. I was learning how to cope under pressure – with a smile on my face. I was learning how to deal with a variety of customers and situations. Experience working in a team – including under pressure – was also there. Pub work definitely gave me confidence that I was lacking when I was younger. Looking back my pub work gave me some of the best hands-on experience for my work life.
I took this new job to help out a local business, but I think I get just as much benefit from it. Whilst I do not intend on giving up my day job I hope to keep pulling pints as long as they need me. So if you happen to be in Orford pop down to the Jolly Sailor for a pint and say hello!