The day-to-day tasks of a service worker depend almost entirely on the job description, since a lot of different work can fall under this title. In general, though, a person in a service-oriented position spends the bulk of his or her time serving others, be it through answering customer questions, serving food, or handling and processing client orders. Broadly speaking, any person who provides service to other people, typically in the areas of comfort, shelter, and food, can be considered to have a service sector job. These workers can be found in a variety of areas, including food service, customer service, family, social, and, human service, and community service. Entry-level service positions typically require only a high school diploma, but there are usually a number of opportunities for advancement in most companies; additionally, many people find that the skills they learned while working in service can help them launch successful careers in other sectors.
Breadth and Scope of Title
It can be quite difficult to set out the specific things a worker in a service job does in part because of how very many jobs can fall under this grouping. A person working the cash register at a fast food restaurant necessarily has a different list of tasks and requirements than someone working at the front desk of a busy hotel or manning the phones for a cable television helpline. There are some things most people with the “service” title have in common, though. All typically interact directly with clients and customers, for one thing. They usually also serve as the larger company’s “face” to the public, and are often the first person clients interact with when they have questions, problems, or needs.
As the job title suggests, workers usually also provide some specific service directly to customers or clients. Sometimes the service is obvious, like processing a phone payment or changing a reservation, but it can also be more nuanced, like providing referrals to therapy or job resource help. No matter the industry, workers typically have to be intimately knowledgeable about whatever service it is they provide in order to offer as comprehensive a service as possible. In terms of the day-to-day duties of the average worker, it’s often easiest to look at the job on a sector-by-sector basis.
Food Service Jobs
Food service companies typically require their workers to prepare, package, and sell food. In the for-profit sector, jobs range from flipping burgers to taking orders to serving beverages. Food service employees in the non-profit sector are usually found preparing and serving food in schools. They can also be found working in churches, hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers.
Customer Service Positions
Most companies that interact with clients or consumers at all have customer service divisions, sometimes in call centers all over the world. Employees in these divisions answer phones, respond to e-mails, and take note of complaints, problems, and comments. If the problem requires some outside service, for instance an Internet customer needs a modem repaired or an insurance client needs a claims adjustment, the service worker is usually the person responsible for coordinating and arranging for the quick resolution of the problem. In retail stores, these people often process returns and product exchanges, too.
Social and Human Services
Most government organizations around the world include a certain number of family services, and workers in these divisions can have a range of different jobs to do. Many work to process things like entitlement benefits, and they can sometimes also act as liaisons between needy families and local resources.
Social service and human service staff have jobs that are related, but are often more narrowly focused on specific issues. These sorts of workers may spend the bulk of their time helping people who have social, psychological, emotional, and physical issues, for instance. A social worker might also manage a drug abuse program, provide counseling to young mothers in a shelter, or provide job training for a disabled person.
Community Service Workers
Community service staff generally do not get paid for their work, since they volunteer their time to provide a service to their community. Sometimes the person willingly volunteers, and sometimes the person is required to volunteer for a school project or as a punishment for a crime. This sort of community workers can be found in schools reading to children, in museums giving tours, in food kitchens serving food, and on the side of the road picking up trash.
Upward Mobility and Job Prospects
Service-sector jobs aren’t usually very high paying, but the barriers to entry are relatively low. People usually need a high school diploma or the equivalent, but there aren’t usually any other formal training or education requirements. The skills that people learn in these sorts of jobs — teamwork, handling adversity, and managing multiple tasks at once, to name just a few — are often useful in many other career paths. People who start out in service jobs often advance to managerial positions or jobs in other sectors that build on their skills.