I am asked often how to become a bartender. This is a simplified blueprint for getting a great bartending job. I go into much greater detail in the book, which includes exactly what to say and not to say in an interview, as well as everything you need to know about learning and practicing at home. The difference between my book and anything else you will find anywhere, is that I tell you exactly how to do it from day one. We develop a plan, we execute the plan, and then create a dynamic bartender resume and cover letter, which will help you land the interview, which you will then nail because I provide you with the 20 most likely interview questions a bar manager will ask you. The book takes all the guesswork out and has you bartending before you know what hit you. Good luck and make sure to share your success stories with me at Dave@TheRealBarman.com.
1. Set Goals. I know, you hate me already, don’t you? But we need to make a plan, to paint a picture of a path you can clearly see. This is the only way to be successful. Did you know that only 3% of people write down their goals, and that those 3% make more money than the other 97% combined? So stop whining and start writing. Based on how much experience you have, determine which type of place you want to work: restaurant, pub, catering, cruise ship, hotel bar, private parties, airports, nightclubs. Do you want to work days? Nights? Full time? Part time? Give me a description of your ideal job and also other options in case the ideal job isn’t available to start with.
2. Make a List. Get online and find all the bars –any bars–that are in your area that you are wiling to work at. And don’t write down three bars. I want 20 at least, and then rank them, #1 being the place you’d like to work at most on down to #20, the least favorite.
3. Do field research. In other words, take shifts and visit the bars you have listed, a few at time, so you can get to know the bar itself and so the people working there become familiar with you (my book goes into great detail on how to do this). Take notes so you remember peoples’ names. Managers like to hire people they know and like, so give a good first impression to them and the staff because the manager will also ask the other bartenders what they think of you.
4. Create a dynamic cover letter and resume. This is a golden opportunity to do what 97% of other applicants do not in the bartending world, which is turn in a professional, yet creative and memorable cover letter and resume. Be bold and make something unique and unforgettable. Don’t be like the rest of the dolts in this world who produce mediocre output and expect amazing results.
5. Return to the scene of the crime. Go back to the bars you have researched and personally speak with the bar manager or owner so that you may look them in the eye and hand them your cover letter and resume. Don’t even think about handing it to the hostess to give to the manager, you coward! Let them know that you are serious and professional.
6. Search Craigslist or other media for bartending jobs. At one time I would have said this is a waste of time, but these days I see bartending jobs get posted daily in my area like crazy on Craigslist. Many times I see posts that say things like, “No experience needed, will train.” What else could you ask for?
7. Learn the trade. This means memorizing and practicing at home, the same things you might learn in bartending school except you can do them in your kitchen. All you need are a handful of bar tools which can be purchased for cheap, some thrown out liquor bottles you can get from any bar at the end of the night (or even during the shift if it’s not too busy) and the gumption to become skilled at it.
8. Prepare for the interview. Do your best to anticipate the questions you might be asked in the interview, and then practice answering them at home. It might seem silly to practice answering these questions to yourself, but it will be even more silly when you get asked a question and you stare blankly at them and say, “Huh?”
9. Follow up. Either send a card that day, or send an email the next day to let them know how great it was to meet with them and that you are very excited about the prospect of working for them. This one step alone will put you ahead of a lot of applicants because no one ever thinks to be courteous anymore. The manager won’t forget it.
10. Be willing to start lower than you wish and work your way up. It may not seem ideal, but I started this way and I ended up making a lot of money. Here’s the truth, even if you are serving or barbacking, there is good money to be made while you learn the ways of the bar. Just make sure you are paying attention, learning, and looking for an opportunity to step up and fill in when someone leaves.
It’s impossible to list all the details needed to fulfill these steps, which is why I wrote the book. It has more unique knowledge in it than a list of drink recipes, which is what 95% of the bartending manuals out there give you. The point is, if you set goals, make a plan and carry it out, there’s no way you won’t acquire a great bartending job in very little time, and the book hands you that plan and every step needed to achieve your goal.