Changing Careers 101: How To Transition Out Of Bartending

how to transition out of bartending
Joe | Last Updated: September 30, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

Bartending can be an amazing career, but let’s face it, it’s not for everyone.

Like any career, there may come a time when you feel the urge to change, explore something new, or seek stability outside the nocturnal world of bars and clubs.

Perhaps you have a young family and want to spend more time at home without feeling tired, or maybe you just want to try your hand at something new.

Whatever the reason, knowing how to transition out of bartending correctly will save you time, stress, and keep your career moving in the right direction.

Whilst I’ve never transitioned out of bartending personally, I’ve been in the industry for over a decade and have seen hundreds of bartenders come and go for various reasons.

As a bar manager, I’ve helped many colleagues smoothly transition into new careers and have uncovered some of the most effective ways to do so.

In this post, we’ll look at some actionable steps and insights to help you navigate this change, ensuring you’re well-prepared for the next exciting chapter in your professional journey.

Let’s get into it…

Why Do Some Bartenders Transition Out Of The Industry?

Bartending can be incredibly fun at times, but there’s no denying that it’s a tough gig.

Being on your feet all day, handling tough customers, and pulling late shifts can really wear you out.

Plus, relying on tips can make your paycheck unpredictable. As people get older or start families, they often want jobs with steadier hours and pay.

Also, some folks bartend while studying or chasing other dreams, so they move on once they’re on track with those goals.

how to transition out of bartending
Image by ChrisGoldNY

While bartending has its perks, many seek change for stability, family, or to chase other ambitions, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I’ve been a bartender all of my career and have seen people join the industry full of joy and excitement only to be left feeling flat and exhausted months later.

It’s tiring, especially when you’re trying to juggle a family, studies, a social life, and whatever else you have going on in your life.

How To Transition Out Of Bartending

Transitioning out of bartending requires a combination of self-assessment, skill development, and strategic networking.

Here are the steps you should take to help you make the move:

1. Self-Reflection and Skill Identification

Begin by diving deep into your motivations for wanting a change.

Is it the temptation of a more balanced life, the desire for a steadier paycheck, or maybe a dream you’ve always wanted to chase?

Whatever the motive, as a bartender you’ve cultivated a unique set of skills. The art of customer service, the ability to multitask under pressure, and conflict resolution are just a few of the many skills you’ve honed.

Recognizing and articulating these transferable skills will be crucial as they can be your main selling points in any new role.

You’ve got A LOT of transferable skills that could lead you into many different exciting career paths.

2. Education and Skill Enhancement

Depending on where you see your next career move, there might be a need for additional qualifications or training.

It’s important to research and understand the requirements of your desired field before you go quitting your bartending job and leave yourself in a muddle.

Consider enrolling in online courses, attending night classes, or participating in workshops if you feel you’re going to need to gain some qualifications.

These educational pursuits not only jazz up your resume but also equip you with the foundational knowledge and confidence needed for your new career.

3. Strategic Networking and Mentorship

The connections you’ve made as a bartender can be more valuable than you think.

Engage with your regular customers, many of whom might have insights or job leads in various industries.

Platforms like LinkedIn can be instrumental in expanding your network. Joining industry-specific groups and attending related events can also open doors to potential opportunities.

It’s a good idea to try and find a mentor in your target profession as this can be a real game-changer. Their guidance, insights, and introductions can significantly smooth your transition.

4. Transitioning Gradually

Instead of making an abrupt shift, consider easing into your new profession.

If circumstances allow, try to secure a part-time position or even an internship in your new field while continuing to bartend.

This way you can alleviate potential financial pressures and provide a practical taste of your new job.

Alternatively, roles that are related to bartending, such as being a sales representative for a liquor brand or event planning, can serve as excellent intermediate steps.

Don’t rush and try to make the transition as smooth as possible for yourself to minimize stress.

5. Revamp Your Professional Brand

In today’s digital age, your online presence speaks volumes.

Take the time to update and refine your online profiles, with a particular emphasis on platforms like LinkedIn.

bartender pouring drinks

Craft a narrative that bridges your experience as a bartender with your future aspirations.

When updating your resume, ensure it’s tailored to highlight your transferable skills and any new qualifications you’ve gained.

What Do Bartenders Do When They Get Old?

Bartending is a physically demanding job, and as bartenders age, they often find themselves contemplating what comes next.

Many seasoned bartenders, having spent years mastering their craft and building relationships, might transition into mentorship roles, training the next generation of bar staff.

Some might decide to open their own bars or restaurants, capitalizing on their experience and industry connections.

Others might pivot entirely, using their people skills in sales, customer service, or other roles that value interpersonal interactions.

And of course, some might choose to retire, enjoying the fruits of their labor, perhaps mixing a cocktail or two for friends and family at gatherings, reminiscing about their days behind the bar.

Whatever path they choose, the skills and experiences they’ve gathered over the years serve them well, allowing them to adapt and thrive in various ways.

It comes down to a matter of personal choice, and where bartenders go depends entirely on their personal circumstances.

Can Bartending Be A Lifelong Career?

Yes, bartending can be a lifelong career for many individuals, including myself. I’ve been in the industry for over a decade now and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.

That said, I’ve progressed through the ranks and am now a bar manager where my role involves tasks relating to the success of the business and not so much the day-to-day of mixing drinks.

Many bartenders thrive on social interactions, take pride in mastering the craft, and earn a substantial income, especially in busy or upscale establishments.

bartender creating some drinks
Photo by Marko Milivojevic on Pixnio

With experience, there are plenty of opportunities for growth, such as moving into management or opening your own bar.

While the job has its physical demands and challenges, for those passionate about the craft it can be a fulfilling long-term profession.

What Careers Can Be Good For Ex-Bartenders?

If you’ve been a bartender for some time and are looking to get out, know that there are plenty of other career paths that you can transition into.

As a bartender, you have lots of transferable skills that relate well to other job roles, from communication skills, problem-solving, organization, sales, and much more.

Here are some common career paths that many ex-bartenders explore when they’re seeking a change:

  • Sales Representative
  • Events Manager
  • Real Estate Agent
  • Restaraunt Manager
  • Brand Ambassador
  • Catering Manager
  • Business Development Manager
  • Teacher
  • Hotel Manager
  • Flight Attendant
  • Digital Marketing
  • Customer Service Representative

There are LOTS of options out there if you fancy a change, so don’t feel like you’re stuck in the bar industry if you feel like it’s not for you.

Dust up your CV, and get out there and find the career for you.

Final Thoughts

Wrapping things up, moving on from bartending isn’t just about leaving the bar behind; it’s about taking all those late nights and challenging experiences with you into something new.

The skills and stories you’ve gathered aren’t just for making drinks—they’re life lessons that can fit into many other roles.

Change can be daunting, but remember, every time you mixed a new cocktail, you were adapting and learning.

I truly hope these five tips help you in transitioning out of bartending and onto your new challenge.

Embrace the change, lean on your strengths, and always be open to new opportunities.

Your next chapter might just be your best one yet.