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5 Critical Career Skills Learned While Waiting Tables

5 Critical Career Skills Learned While Waiting Tables

Steve Ekstrom, CEO and co-founder of the Tourism Academy, recently shared valuable insights from his extensive experience in the hospitality industry. He highlighted five essential skills learned from his early days as a waiter and bartender. With programs running on four continents and an average of 6,000 daily students, the Tourism Academy focuses on leveraging tourism for sustainable economic and cultural development.

Customer service emerged as a foundational skill, emphasizing the importance of anticipating and meeting customer needs promptly and effectively. Ekstrom stressed the value of understanding the holistic visitor experience, including the need for authentic local interactions.



Effective communication, active listening, and positive framing were emphasized as crucial in hospitality and beyond. Ekstrom illustrated the importance of clear communication and proactive problem-solving, empowering staff to enhance guest experiences.

Multitasking and time management were highlighted as essential for juggling multiple tasks while maintaining service quality. Ekstrom emphasized the transferability of these skills to various industries, including leadership and project-based roles.

Lastly, teamwork and collaboration were underscored as vital for delivering exceptional service. Ekstrom shared examples of how effective teamwork contributes to a positive workplace environment and customer satisfaction.

During the discussion, emerging trends like robotics and automation in hospitality were addressed, emphasizing the importance of balancing technological advancements with authentic, local experiences tailored to visitor preferences.

Ekstrom concluded with a message of inspiration, encouraging continuous learning and improvement. He echoed Maya Angelou's wisdom: "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." He expressed gratitude for the opportunity to engage with students and looked forward to further educational collaborations.


About the Author: Stephen Ekstrom

Stephen Ekstrom is the embodiment of a passionate lifelong learner and a seasoned professional in the tourism industry, serving as the CEO and co-founder of the nonprofit Tourism Academy | With over 25 years of experience, he has cultivated a deep understanding of tourism development and education, driven by his commitment to advancing the industry and fostering sustainable economies. Stephen's insatiable curiosity and love for knowledge have led him to be a proud nerd, constantly seeking to expand his expertise and share his insights with others. Alongside his faithful furry companions, Rudy and Marjorie, he embraces the digital nomad lifestyle, traversing the globe and immersing himself in diverse cultures. A dedicated advocate for continuous improvement, Stephen is a professional member of the Association for Talent Development, a member of Skal International, and holds prestigious certifications in Inclusive and Ethical Leadership from USF and Sustainable Business Strategy from Harvard Business School.

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