After endless weekends of hitting the bars and clubs in Los Angeles the idea has finally hit you, “I want to bartend!” It’s obvious that there is a lot of money to be made, but how does someone get started? And is it even possible to break in with no experience?
The first thing to remember is that bartending is more than simply memorizing drink recipes. This is a sales job which means you have to be good with people and think quickly on your feet. Now mix this together with some basic bartending knowledge and you’ll have a better idea of what it takes to be a bartender.
People tend to fall into two categories in Los Angeles, either they have no experience and want to break in or they have moved to LA with experience bartending, but can’t find a job.
For those of you that have little or no experience let me give you two pieces of advice. First, don’t go to bartending school! Save your money and time. Most bars, clubs and restaurants in LA don’t view bartending school with much respect. It’s not that you didn’t learn anything there, but it is not real experience. Ask any bartender working in an LA hot spot and the last thing you’ll hear is that they got there because of bartending school. Your goal should be to get experience any way you can, whether its through a catering company, or bartending for family and friends. You need to get some experience on your resume and learn the basics.
Second, don’t lose hope. You can break into the LA bar scene with little or no experience. As mentioned before this is a sales job, not a contest to see who can memorize the most drinks. This means that you first need to begin by learning the basics and then put yourself out there and begin interviewing. Just remember, every bartender working today was once a beginner with no experience, but unless you take responsibility to find an opportunity it will probably never happen for you. (All of this is outlined in detail in the Behind The Bar training course)
#1 Get a plan
Now for those of you that do have experience bartending the first thing you need to do is get a plan and stick to it. Los Angeles is one of the most competitive places to land a job bartnding, but it can be done.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard a bartender say was “you have to treat your job hunt like a job.” One way you can do this is by setting a goal of how many bars you will approach each week and stick to it. Keep track of the bar managers names and contact numbers that way you can keep checking back in. Finding a great bartending job is all about timing and things change fast in this industry, this means that a place which is fully staffed one week could need someone the next.
#2 Scout Locations
Now that you’ve set a goal of how many places you plan to approach each week it’s time to find these places. First, make your dream list of places you would like to bartend and apply to these places first. As mentioned before there is a lot of turnover in this industry so it can’t hurt to stay in touch.
Second, decide how far you are willing travel and then begin driving around these areas to see what you find. There are always new bars and restaurants opening in Los Angeles so you will probably find a few places you’ve never seen before. Also keep in mind that most restaurants/clubs have certain days/times when they interview people so its important to ask when these times are so you can come back.
#3 Put the Word Out
One of the best things you can do it to begin telling all of your friends and family that your looking for a bartending job and to keep their eyes open. I would recommend taking this one step further by making a list of friends and family members. Call each of them and ask if they can remember you when ever they go out to a bar or restaurant to ask if they are hiring. You’d be surprised how productive this can be.
#4 Presentation! Presentation!
Remember that a bar is hiring you because they believe you can make them money, represent the vibe of their place and can be trusted handling money. With that in mind always remember to look your best and act professional! Your style should match the place your trying to work for and always carry yourself like someone who is confident, outgoing and trustworthy. You’d also be surprised how far a good smile and handshake go when you meet the bar manager.
#5 Follow Up
This is the most important point to remember. Let’s say you decide to apply at 5 bars a week. The first thing you want to do is tell the bar manager that you are eager to break in and that you’ll be checking in with him/her from time to time to see if anything comes available.
Next, I would recommend following up 2 weeks later in person to see if anything has changed. If not thank them for their time and remind them to keep you in mind, then 3 weeks after that follow up with a phone call (that is if you haven’t found a job already).
This kind of follow up will show your persistence and reliability. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for the job each time you check in. If they are overstaffed you can propose that they hire you for one day a week or as a backup bartender. Showing that you are willing to do what it takes to break in goes a long way in this industry.
Now go get started!