The summer that I was sixteen-years-old I ventured out into my quickly expanding suburban town to find my first job. There was a large plaza being built at that time and in that plaza sat a brand, spanking, new McDonald’s. I walked in, wearing my favorite khaki skirt and a blue and white striped shirt with my most responsible face on, and applied for a position. I appreciate each and everyday that I worked at that job, because it has taught me much of what has made me successful today.
- No matter what job you have in life, you always have the opportunity to have a bit of fun. Those late nights closing up with other high school kids from other area high schools were fun nights. We laughed and joked and got into trouble. This made it the perfect first job. Your job is as fun as you make it.
- Never order lemons at a restaurant. I know many people say this, but looking back on my time in the food service industry, I know that not everyone washed the lemons before cutting them. That means that those lemons were picked, transported, packed, shipped, opened, possibly dropped and passed to someone else, cut, and put into your drink…without being washed. Think about how many hands touched that lemon…gross. I think we could trace all flu pandemics back to lemons, rather than swine or birds. Just saying…
- Manners go a long way. No matter what type of business you are patronizing, use manners. Please and Thank-you.
- Use caution when referring to someone as “ma-am.” The first time a small child called me “ma-am” was at that counter. I immediately understood why many of my customers hated to be called “ma-am.” It sounds old. Sometimes it is appropriate, just use it very carefully.
- Never allow yourself to be a part of workplace drama. Drama ran deep at this job, and once you fell in, it was difficult to recover.
- No matter what a person promises you, if you tell a co-worker a secret, assume that he or she will share it with other co-workers. Gossip runs through the workplace like a woman in a shoe store. Once it starts, there is no stopping it and there will be collateral damage.
- I learned that I was not always as nice as I thought I was…especially to one guy in particular, who I dated during my time at this job. If you by any chance are reading this…I am sorry…I really was not very nice to you while we dated. Which leads to…
- Never date someone with whom you must work closely. It can lead to disaster. (Trust me…)
- Managing people does not translate to stomping around and barking orders. No one will respect you and no one will work for you.
- Every industry has people who I like to refer to as “lifers.” If you do not wish to work in this industry forever, work hard. Bust your butt. Find out what you would like to do with your life and do it. Never settle for anything less, because you will turn into a bitter miserable person, working in a job you hate, and not qualified to do anything else with your life. The worst part? You will have no one to blame but yourself.
- If you are not willing to work hard to achieve a goal, you forfeit your right to complain. No one wants to hear how much you hate your job-especially if you are not willing to do the work to change your situation.
- Never take yourself too seriously.
- Everything can be corrected. Customers would flip out when a sandwich was made wrong as if world peace was dependent on their chicken sandwich having Big Mac sauce added to it. (um. gross.) Rather than politely telling me that it was done incorrectly (despite the fact that I did enter the order correctly and the people actually making the food made the mistake), they would proceed to scream and yell an cause a scene. Calm down. It can be fixed. It will be fixed. And if you had been nicer to me, I might have thrown you a free bag of cookies or an apple pie for your trouble. But you were rude. So you get nothing.
- Working is a privilege, not a right. No matter what your job is, you are not doing them any favors by working there. You are providing a service. You are working there in exchange for a paycheck. Keep your attitude to yourself. And if you hate your job? Quit. Find a new one. You’re not qualified to find a new one? Be thankful you even have a job in difficult times.
- The amount of oil and grease used in fast food restaurants is literally unbelievable. I mean…you think you know how bad it is. You have no idea until you have slid across the floor of a McDonald’s kitchen and landed on your behind, covering yourself in the grossness of the floor. I think if I had burned my uniform after my last day, it would have caused a grease fire that could have potentially taken out the state of Pennsylvania.
- I also learned what type of manager I wanted to be in life. I knew at some point I would be managing people in a future job, and I never wanted to use that authority to deliberately hurt others as I had been in the past. One manager in the restaurant wanted to date the guy who happened to be dating me. (Oh-high school drama! How I miss thee…not really) She used her pull in the store to convince another high school kid to “trip” and spill an entire chocolate milkshake on me while I was walking to the bathroom. At the time, I nervously laughed it off and tried to keep a sense of humor about it. But I was hurt! Why would someone want to hurt my feelings like that? As I wiped the freezing cold milkshake off of my shirt and pants, I wept silently in the bathroom. It seemed SO mean! So awful! However, looking back on it, how sad was that person? She was in her 20′s and paid a high school boy to humiliate a high school girl who she was supposed to be managing! In the aftermath of “Milkshake Gate,” I learned that some people are hard-wired for drama and jealousy.
At the end of the day, I am grateful for those several years at the golden arches. I would never return there to work…no matter how much you paid me-but I would also never trade my time there and the lessons I learned for anything in the world.
What did you learn at your first job?