Why I Rejected A Lucrative Job Offer To Become A Part-Time Bartender

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Why I Rejected a Lucrative Job Offer to Become a Part-Time Bartender
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Self

All of us have worked at places we don’t like at some point in our lives. Some of us get stuck in these jobs and learn to endure them, some break free from them, some ruin their lives never following their dreams.

I was lucky and entitled to be able to follow the sound of my heart whispering “Do it. Follow your passion!”, though not everyone liked that decision. Hopefully, my story could help open a new point of view for some of you and inspire you to make the jump against the will of society.

Background

Five years ago I graduated from vocational school with a degree in IT. Back when I started it at 15 years old, I thought that it was my thing. During those three years, I found out that playing video games and programming are two very different things. Most of the teachers weren’t exactly inspiring (“YouTube is full of tutorials. Use them.”) and my motivation for everything started to fall. I skipped classes because I didn’t care anymore and if it wasn’t for my grandma, whom I lived with, pushing me out of the door each morning, I would’ve rather stayed home.

Miraculously, I graduated. But even with the diploma in my hand, I was unable and unwilling to find a job in my field, because I didn’t have the required skills for even an entry-level programming job. I had zero motivation to do anything in life, because that trilogy of years at school, that was supposed to launch me into a prosperous professional life, had failed me. Or I had failed it. I spent a year that I shall never get back playing video games all day long in my first own apartment, living on the government’s social support.

Then one afternoon, after eating my breakfast, instead of firing up my PC, I picked up my phone and started to look for jobs. I had done it a couple of other times, but this was different. I found a job ad that promised relocation overseas. I didn’t even care what kind of a job it was — I immediately started working on my application to that company. I had a feeling in my guts that my life was about to change. I prayed for this to be the turning point in my life. And it was.

New beginning and back to square one

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A year later, I was a changed man — living in Latvia by myself, working at my first 9-to-5 job ever. The job was that of a CSR (Customer Service Representative) for a money transfer company. I had always been a shy kid, with no friends and missed some important social skills.

But now I had to spend eight hours a day talking to people on the phone in a professional manner. Quickly, I learned how to deal with different kinds of people — like someone threatening to sue me, because apparently, I had personally stolen his money, which was just temporarily unavailable to the receiver due to technical issues. Little did I know that this skill would come in handy in the future.

Fast forward a year and a half of completing my military service and backpacking across Europe, I was at square one again. I had hit a wall on my new path of self-improvement and couldn’t see a way to climb over it. I applied to jobs, went to interviews, and read the rejection letters one after another.

In these desperate times, a little thought passed through my mind, which turned into a snowball effect. I had been interested in craft beer for a while by then and had volunteered on a couple of beer festivals. Those festivals were some of the most enjoyable moments of my life — who would’ve thought that pouring beer could be fun.

I had enjoyed the social aspect of my previous job, but I wanted to put my social skills into practice in face-to-face customer service. That’s what volunteering at these festivals allowed me to do. After each festival, I thought to myself “I wish I could do this for my job”. My love for beer and human interaction — 1+1=bartending.

I found the list of training offered by the unemployment office and maybe its destiny, but there happened to be a short training to get the basics skills and licenses required to start working as a bartender. Without a second thought, I sent in my application.

But things got a bit complicated when what I thought to be just another post-interview rejection letter from an employer turned out to be a job offer. Not just any job offer, but one from the biggest bank in Finland for an Insurance Advisor’s position. Full-time job with a solid 2K€/month salary in their brand new HQ in the heart of the capital, great opportunities to climb the corporate ladder, higher social status. Problem solved, end of the story? Not quite.

At the same time, I received a call from the school — where I applied for the bartending training — that I had also been accepted there. I was now facing the hardest choice of my life so far. I tried to discuss it with my parents, but my dad completely failed to understand why I was even considering turning down the job offer.

He never said no, but I knew that I’d disappoint him by doing against his advice. Mom said that despite her wish that I’d take the job, she would support me in any case. It was the classic “brain vs. heart” decision. I chose to go with my heart, once again.

Finding my thing

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With the very basic skills I got from the training, I got to spend my very first days behind an actual bar in my internship. It was an upscale hotel’s Irish pub, so it had a very diverse client base, but that’s what made it so interesting.

Whether it was trying to be overly professional and polite to important businessmen in suits, joking with regular folks, or chatting with the regulars, I was having fun and enjoying my time. That shy kid I used to be never seemed to be further away than when I stood behind the bar. I was shining when I got to serve people their drinks, have a little chat with them, and see the smile on their faces when they thanked me.

Here in Finland, tipping isn’t common, but I would receive handshakes from clients at the end of their visit to the bar, thanking me for the excellent service. That was much more valuable to me than their coins. One time an American couple took me out for a dinner after my shift. What might’ve been a small act of gratitude to them, was something that made my day and I’ll remember those for the rest of my life

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Standing 8–12 hours, except for a 30-minute “lunch” break (around 9 pm), my legs and back were killing me and all the new info I had to remember was stressing me out. But I was enjoying my time. Each day I woke up excited that I would get to work again and spent to whole day just counting hours until my shift would start in the evening.

After my internship, I found my first part-time job at an upscale cocktail restaurant. After a month I heard of my favorite craft beer brand opening a brand new bar in the town. It was a dick move to let them know just a few days earlier that I quit, but I’m sure they understood since they knew about my love for craft beer. 

I felt like I was on top of the world, working in my dream job — serving people their beers. Sure, I didn’t earn a lot. I lived in a student apartment shared with three strangers in a questionable neighborhood, as it was all that I could afford. But it didn’t matter to me, because I loved my job.

Fast forward a year and I found myself working at a craft brewery to help them recover from the damage done by the CoVid-pandemic and at the same time I applied and got accepted to the university of my dreams to study for my dream career.

I often think what my life would look like if I would’ve taken that full-time office job. Maybe I would still be there and maybe I would be happy, rolling in cash.

Or maybe I’d still be there, not having learned all these social skills, not having hitchhiked halfway through Europe with strangers, and having some of the most valuable experiences of my life. Maybe I would just use all of my salaries to help fill the emptiness inside me.

I shall never know, but what I do know is that I am happy with how things turned out and that tells me, that I made the right choice. And I encourage you to make one, too.

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Claudio Lintunen is passionate about helping people, design, and environmental issues. He's a writer, musician, and UX designer from Finland.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.