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Thread: Having an existential crisis, feeling more lost than ever..

  1. #1
    Bronze Member quark's Avatar
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    Having an existential crisis, feeling more lost than ever..

    I'm 35 years old and I'm a server at a restaurant. That statement is so incredibly embarrassing/sad to me, but this is my life.

    Growing up, I was always drawing. I would write and illustrate my own "books". I wanted to start my own newsletter. In about 5th grade is when computers really started to make it into every home. I started to dabble in web design. I made a spice girls fan page via geocities. I made my own "e-zine" with articles (written by me) and outsourced links to other pages. So..being creative has always been in my blood.

    I'm one of those 'first people in my family' to go to college types. So, choosing a major/degree aspiration and also choosing a school was challenging, as it was all new for my mom and I. I chose to take up graphic design. I went to Katharine Gibbs "college" as they were affordable for us, and featured an all new design curriculum. I was able to get some freelance work through friends' connections and family, but soon lost interest and inspiration in it. The fact that the college was really just a for-profit money grab, targeting people who didn't know better, and had dissolved into nothing more than the ghost of a name didn't help with my confidence or potential job offers.

    I got my first real restaurant job at 20. (Before that, I had foodservice experience working at Friendly's ice cream putting together sundaes). I enjoyed the fast pace environment, meeting new people and being social. Not to mention the money was pretty good for not needing any kind of degree to do the work. I bounced from place to place, spending a few years here and there. I worked my way up to bartender. Pretty early on in my restaurant career, I wanted to be able to own my own place. I started dating a chef, we were together for almost 7 years. We had aspirations of owning our own food truck, but much like our relationship much of it was talk and no action. But, I always figured that was my "way out". That was my next step.. to have my own business.

    When our relationship ended, so did the dream of the food truck. After our split, I worked up to becoming a manager. It was a little soul draining, as I worked long, hard hours and the people I was managing were walking out with more money than I was. I started to think of a lifetime career in the restaurant industry where management has a 55 hour work week minimum (it is more like 60+). Reminiscing on all the holidays, birthdays, get togethers that I had missed over the years because this industry won't allow it really started to get me down. As I age, I realize how short life is and how much more important quality of life is becoming to me.

    I left management, demoted myself back to server/bartender where the hours are less and the pay is better. However, at 35 years old..I cannot sustain doing this for life. Nor do I really want to. It is not glamorous saying that you work at a restaurant, even if it is a fine dining establishment.

    So here's where I'm at today.. I recently got fired from a job where I was frustrated but I was atleast making decent money. This messed me up more than I am letting on to anyone. I did not see it coming and I am still in disbelief that the general manager would do that. Yes, I may have challenged him to "do better" and improve things, but we had some talks where he agreed with what I was saying.

    I got this new job at a newly opened restaurant. BYOB which is new to me. Mom and pop type place. I am even more frustrated than I was at the old job. There are absolutely no systems in place, and the owner seems like she is just "playing restaurant" instead of taking it serious as running a business. I have zero faith that she can execute payroll correctly. There is no way we are profitable with the volume we are doing right now. I was recently offered to take over as "maitre d" which basically means for $7/hour, the chef can drop the restaurant in my lap and I am supposed to sort it out. There are other various reasons why this will not work out. I am telling him today that while I respect his vision, that this is not a good fit for me. Maybe one day all the puzzle pieces will come together and we will become a cohesive team, but right now I do not have the patience or financial stability to wait for that to happen. I need to be at a place with systems and structure in place.

    I'm not sure what my call to advice is for per se... I just wanted to rant. I'm just looking for general commentary. I guess I'll take advice on what career path you think would be right for me? I am open to going back to school, but I wouldn't even know where to start. The restaurant industry is all I know.

  2. #2
    Platinum Member reinventmyself's Avatar
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    I worked in the food industry, starting in high school through about 23. I have friends who did so much longer. Bottom line, it's a burn out industry.

    The challenge goes from being cash flush, flexible hours, to taking a probable pay cut and basically starting over if you can. You have customer service skills and some along with management, that could parlay you into some administrative, reception like position. That's probably not what you want to hear, but the restaurant industry knows most employees are not going to be career servers. For most, it's a stop gap.

    Stay with your bartending job, cut back to working 2 to 3 nights a week and look for an entry level position else where.

    That's basically what I did. With my lead server, management and training position experience, within a year of being a receptionist I was promoted quickly and given opportunities I otherwise wouldn't have had.

    You just need to take that leap of faith.

  3. #3
    Platinum Member maew's Avatar
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    You have mentioned a few things that you enjoyed... graphic design and writing content... whatís stopping you from pursuing those as careers?

    Or, whatís stopping you from using your experience in the restaurant industry and applying that plus research to starting your own business?

    Dream big! You can have what your heart desires... you just need to take opportunities as they come up, make a plan thatís broken into achievable chunks, and donít be afraid to take risks or to fail at something.

    If it doesnít work it doesnít work, at least you can say you tried it.

  4. #4
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    Why aren't you pursuing the creative bit? If you do not want to go that route, then speak to a career counselor.

    YOU are responsible for your own happiness. Take some action!

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  6. #5
    Platinum Member Rose Mosse's Avatar
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    It's possible to exist in the food industry but I agree that it tends to chew most people up and spit them out. Passion isn't enough. You need connections and to start early. If you don't have connections, you're finished. Work back and think to any connections you've made and apply to more fine dining positions if you have the experience. You don't sound particularly motivated to stay in the restaurant industry so I think it might be better for you to go back to school and figure out what you like to do and don't limit yourself either.

    Mind you, I started off as a creative child and found out later I loved business (accounting) far more. I almost never engage with the previous activities I used to do and feel I've outgrown that phase of my life (totally not challenging and zero interest). People change along with their interests. I think you should explore all of it and don't automatically close off doors and just stick to the familiarity of a creative role.

  7. #6
    Platinum Member melancholy123's Avatar
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    How about staring your own online graphics business? Working for yourself can be awesome and you are the boss. I've been self employed with an online biz for 25 years and would never work for anyone else again.

  8. #7
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    Would you be up for pursuing another degree part time since you know youíre employable as a server ?

  9. #8
    Platinum Member catfeeder's Avatar
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    My heart goes out to you. I've been in your shoes countless times over the course of my adult life until I found my niche and my current position in an art department.

    Did you finish the graphics program? What was the reason your last employer gave for letting you go?

    I'd consider limiting my hours with the new place or applying for a part time server position nights and weekends elsewhere, then I'd start applying with temp agencies starting with the closest to you and working a radius outward. At least 3 morning appointments per week, then treat yourself to some kind of reward afterwards.

    Temping is how most companies hire these days--it's a 'try before you buy' situation for both of you. You get to check out different corporate cultures, and the role you accept as a temp is irrelevant. The goal is to get inside, where you can form relationships and apply for unpublished jobs from within.

    Once inside, you can visit the Marketing and Art departments and learn whether you can freelance there, or possibly apply for an inhouse production or design role. Offer some free help and learn how they work, let them see your work and learn whether you'd be a good fit. Develop relationships.

    Use Lynda.com to brush up on the Adobe applications through their tutorials. You can work all the free ones first, then sign up for the trial period. From there you can decide if you want to subscribe monthly or for an annual fee. Despite taking Mac labs at the local tech school, I found this site invaluable and still continue to use it today despite being employed for years over 13 years.

    I found my job through temping. I had been applying with temp agencies for months, but it was a pre-recession time, and even the IT jobs I said I'd never do again didn't exist at that time. It turned out to be the most far away agency that ended up getting me a gig about 10 minutes from my home.

    Temp agencies don't all work with the same firms, so you can't just apply with one and wait for an opportunity. You can't just send your resume, they only hire people on their 'active' roster, and you need to go in person and test on applications to join that. Apply at both, regular and creative agencies. Don't be discouraged when they tell you that they have nothing at the moment--no good agency has jobs lying around waiting for you. Get on their active list and move on to the next agency.

    Head high.

  10. #9
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    I actually agree with some other posters that you need to try to take control of your own life. I think most things (not all) that happen to us in our life are our own doing. If for a long time you've been unhappy working in restaurants, then it's time you did something about it. If you have/had dreams then YOU have to work on making them happen.

    You can't really blame your relationship break up for crushing your dream of having a food truck. Things happen in life sometimes not as we planned, but if you really want something, you have to try to make it happen regardless.

    People live long these days and if nothing happens, you should be able to live until at least your 80's. So you still have 50 years to pursue what you really want. If you want to do the creative and design stuff, you could study those courses and try to break into the industry. Even if you start in an entry level job, you need to start building that experience.

    Also the thing about telling your boss at work what to do and how to run the restaurant unfortunately won't do you any favours. Clearly you are very experienced, but you're NOT actually a manager. Managers don't like to be challenged by staff they manage and be told how to do their job. So while you're probably over qualified for these jobs, that doesn't really give you the right to act like a manager because you're actually not.

  11. #10
    Silver Member Rising100's Avatar
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    Katherine gibbs huh I almost went there. 3 of my friends were also into art and design so they went instead, meanwhile I tried to save some money to go too. Luckily they told me me how bad it was, one of them ended with thousands of dollars in debt.


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