How Being a Food Service Worker Trained Me for Networking on LinkedIn

Serve others with a smile and the customer is always right

I’ve received comments on how my LinkedIn profile is full of several different jobs. The funny thing is, only a fraction of my experiences are posted on my profile. Some of the jobs not listed include my work in restaurants, catering, and dining. Every experience teaches you something and working in food service taught me a lot about how to treat people. Lessons I still use today in how I move on LinkedIn.

Smile.

Look people in the eye.

Say their name.

The customer is always right.

“How was your meal today?”

“Let me know if I can do anything else for you.”

It’s never about you. Bad days happen and great days are happenstance.

It’s not about the money.

As someone with RBF, being in an industry that requires service with a smile pushed me to grow. It took years! In 2016, I was almost fired for not going out of my way enough to smile at everyone. In 2018, my boss sat me down and told me that I have to learn to leave home at the door and not let emotions enter my work. I thought those employers were being harsh and forcing me to be fake and not myself. As someone whose identity is about being Authentic, it felt like a challenge to my entire way of being. However, I realized that it was more about over-communicating my internal state. It wasn’t fake because I do care about other people. On the contrary, my disposition wasn’t telling them so. In 2019, my cousin told me how I scare my aunts when I respond unenthusiastically to their questions.

For me, I was simply addressing the question asked; nothing more, nothing less. Unfortunately, people tend to read into our behaviors and overevaluate for meaning. I find this quite frustrating because I’d like to believe that since I communicate what I need to do there’s no need to read into my actions; I’m very genuine so what I say is what I say. However, I’ve learned to take what I say and wrap it in a bow to also manage how it’s interpreted.

I derived greater meaning out of wrapping burritos and cleaning tables by making it about serving the people I work with rather than trying to find meaning in the labor itself. Similarly, my interactions on LinkedIn aren’t trying to connive a pyramid scheme or land a job at a random company. I’ve connected with AMAZING people and learning their stories is way more important to me than learning their salaries. Previously, I wrote an article on how I don’t get burnt out previously. I think something that I hadn’t addressed is that my intentions are genuine which leads to my actions being more sustainable due to their honest motivations. LinkedIn isn’t transactional for me; I’m not connecting with you for a referral only or to use you to get to someone else. Surprisingly, because of wanting to simply get to know others, the referrals arise from other people’s unsolicited inspiration which I really appreciate. My goal is long term: to support others as I learn myself. Even if land a 6-figure offer tomorrow, I’ll still be on LinkedIn all day cheering on my peers and sharing reflections on my journey as well.

Written by

Product manager | Leading with empathy.

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