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Comic by Sam Hockaday

When I was hostessing at the restaurant this weekend and running the takeout counter, an elderly gentleman came to pick up his bucket of chowder. As he waited for me to give him his change, he gave me something: a job offer.

He is in his 40th year as the owner of a little jewelry store, called The Little Silver Shop in Avon, Connecticut. He is looking for someone to work three days a week 9:30-5:30, which adds up to 24 hours a week, which isn’t bad for a part-time job. When he looked at me with a kind, hopeful smile, I found it hard to tell him that I was too busy with all of the part-time jobs and internships I am currently doing. And, hey, 24 hours a week isn’t bad. Granted, selling jewelry isn’t what I’m looking to do with my future (I say this not with disrespect to any jewelers out there….I’m just commenting on its relevance to my career path, fingers crossed), but it was nice to be asked.

It’s like when you’re looking for a date to prom in high school. When it may seem that all the wierdos are the ones who ask you, behind the disgust, awkwardness, and sexual tension, most girls would agree that it can feel nice to be asked. That doesn’t mean you have to say yes, but it’s nice to know there are options out there.

You’d be surprised, how many customers offer you jobs as a waitress or a hostess. Another women in our restaurant was recruiting saleswomen for a Mary Kay-like, work-from-home retail sales opportunity. Recently, a man who works at ESPN told me that they’re hiring without me mentioning that I was looking for a job. So, I ended up contacting a producer I know there and as luck would have it, I recently had an interview.

It’s funny. It’s as though customers see waitresses/hostesses and assume we want to be somewhere better and are somehow telegraphing that we want an out. This, of course, may or may not be true. Some people really do want to make a living out of customer relations and food services, and I am fully supportive of that. So, what about a restaurant is telling people, “This young lady has a lot of potential and I want to help her reach it by offering her a job at a jewelry store or tipping her off about openings at ESPN”? I swear I didn’t say anything to provoke that or give off an attitude saying, “Get me out of here,” so where are they getting this?

Restaurants are a mecca for young people to work, though not too young. You’re required to be 18 to work at any restaurant that serves alcohol, so many of us are in college, college grads, or in our twenties. The youth theoretically gives us energy and enthusiasm, qualities that employers like to see. Employers want people who want to work, so if they see that you’re doing your job well and they happen to be hiring, they may see qualities in you that they’re looking for. Part of a job is chemistry between the workers and employers, so liking your personality and attitude could be enough to get you hired in some instances.

People in their early twenties are growing out of living at home and most likely want to get their own place. Unless you have a trust fund, it is unlikely that you will have the funds right away, so you have to save up and work a lot of part-time hours before you get a full-time job. So, in the case of the jewelry store man, he wasn’t telling me to quit the restaurant. He was offering to give me a second job, and if I needed to leave a little early to come over to the restaurant he was flexible.

In this economy, customers in restaurants can be stingy with tipping because they are trying to cut back, however, large tip or not, most customers I have encountered are compassionate or can at least commiserate with the fact that the economy is tough and people are doing everything they can to just get by. So, a jewelry store owner asking a young hostess to work for him is also an extension of a hand to help another person out in the economy.

Regardless of how well a person knows you or what knowledge they have of your resume, people do recognize that the job market is the worst it’s been in awhile. Even if they don’t promise you a job, many would be happy just to talk to you or to point you in the right direction.

That goes back to what I said last week about always being on your A-game. You just never know who you’re going to meet and where you might bump into someone who could help you, whether it’s a job in a field your interested in or a part-time job to give you some extra cash for your savings.

So, if anyone in Connecticut who needs a part-time job at the moment while you’re looking for a full-time one, The Little Silver Shop in Avon is hiring and I’d be happy to put you in touch. Who knows what jewels you may find in that shop or in even more unexpected places.