Is bartending school necessary?
Though some argue that what you learn in a classroom means little behind a real bar, others find schooling a strong primer for the job market. If you don't know your Jack from your ginger, Costanza recommends a training course.
"They not only teach you drinks and give placement and résumé assistance; … it's the intangibles they give you, the little details you pick up from their years of experience," he says.
Bartending schools can cost about $500 to $700, including books and job placement assistance. Avoid schools that guarantee you a job after graduation or promise a "bartending license." There is no such thing. Research schools online, ask for references from recent graduates and check with the Better Business Bureau.
A stint at bartending school also can give you a realistic look at the physical demands of the profession. Handling bottles, lifting ice buckets and moving quickly during busy shifts can take a toll on the body. Make sure yours is ready for the rigors of slinging drinks.
How to get hired
A résumé outlining your strengths that can be applied directly to bartending helps, as does a basic knowledge of liquor and wine. Visit various establishments to get a feel for where you'd be comfortable, in terms of environment, hours and clientele. Family restaurants and hotels might be better fits than biker bars and dance clubs.
Also apply to multiple catering companies, Costanza says. That'll increase your odds of getting offered gigs that'll fit your schedule. Just be mindful that bartending isn't a nine-to-five profession, so you'll need to be prepared to work odd hours, especially when you start out.
And as with any job search, you need to network, network, network. Post your availability on Facebook and have some inexpensive business cards printed. As people learn about your new pursuit, you can be hired to work private parties.
Once you do get an offer, budget for clothing. It's common in the restaurant industry to wear specific attire, and you're most likely responsible for buying it. Most important, says Costanza, be sure to get "a great pair of comfortable, nonslip shoes."
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