Though many aspire to lofty careers as doctors, lawyers, and businessmen, together, the retail and hospitality fields provide more jobs than any other single job sector. In fact, everyone who leaves their home encounters people in these jobs on a regular basis.

Many of these jobs are low paying and command little respect, but high turnover makes them readily available and attractive for teens looking for extra cash. While few teens will go on to a career in the service industry, these jobs have tremendous value in that they teach important life skills.

They teach humility

These jobs take care of others’ needs. It’s difficult to put yourself at the top of the food chain when you’re cleaning up someone else’s leftovers.

Unfortunately, some feel the need to put others “in their place.” Having waited tables through college, I encountered my share of people who acted as though they were doing me a favor by allowing me to bring them food and drinks. These are the folks who would leave a small tip, or none at all.

When your income relies on people recognizing your effort, you understand that a person’s worth is not measured by a paycheck.

They teach respect

Many of these jobs are physically demanding, and they all have the potential to be psychologically draining. Workers in the hospitality field in particular get the invisible treatment. People often walk past them or talk as if they’re not there – that is, until they’re unhappy with the service.

Success in these jobs is contingent on being polite and respectful, even when those you are serving do not return the courtesy. As a result, many people who work in service jobs extend that respect to others, even after they’ve moved up the professional ladder. They know that you’re judged by how you treat others.

They teach appreciation

Service jobs teach the value of hard work. You learn what it’s like to be treated poorly even when you have given the best of yourself. It’s a commonly known fact that those who have worked in these jobs are frequently the best tippers. They have less disposable income, but are willing to show their appreciation for a job well done.  

When you spend your days feeling invisible and taken for granted, you’re more likely to acknowledge others’ contributions. This sort of gratitude is contagious.

They provide motivation

If you don’t like what you are doing for the low pay and long hours, you may be more motivated to do what it takes to get the skills to find another job. We’ve all heard stories of people working hard at minimum wage jobs in order to pay for college or other education so they could improve their life situation.

Even those who do not aspire to higher education can be motivated to work harder to earn more in the form of better tips or raises. Reluctant students might also realize that education is an important step along the path to better things.

They build social skills

It has been found that workers with better social skills are more likely to earn more. If you’re going to be successful in a job that involves customer service, you need to know how to talk to people and how to determine exactly what they want or need even if they’re not good at expressing it themselves.

The mantra “the customer is always right” is difficult to live by, but when people are treated well, they’re more likely to become repeat customers. This can be applied to all kinds of business, at all levels.

Though jobs in the service industry don’t always get much respect, they are vital to a functioning economy. Working in such a job makes you realize, in a very real way, how important we all are to each other, and that underneath it all, we’re more alike than we are different.