Lessons from working at a fast food restaurant:
It’s almost the beginning of 2016 and in our incredibly futuristic society the number of articles detailing how millennials can better prepare themselves to enter their future career prepared for success continues to grow as recent research indicates that a startling number of over educated young adults are stuck in under paid jobs. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize how completive the job market for millennials is when phrases like, “Oh good luck finding a decent paying job with that degree” and "The millennial generation is filled with a bunch of entitled young-adults who expect that little piece of paper guarantees them success”, have become frequent remarks from older generations. But these same common phrases have also sparked many students to ask themselves whether or not they really have what it takes to thrive in a future career. Based on society's preconceived notions, as well as research about millennials and their inability to thrive in their future career, current college students can only ask themselves, “Is there anything I can do?” Surely the equation between a college education and a reliable job has changed over the years, and as a result many young college graduates will continue to be forced into less than ideal first jobs, but is that it? Or is there hope for future millennials who want to thrive in their future career? While the purpose of this post is not necessarily to outline the pathway of success for a millennial, the purpose of this odd post is however to share some of the insight I have learned working at a fast food chain this past year, and how I think that same insight can help many future millennials, as well as myself, who desire to enter their future post-degree career prepared for success.
Referencing back to the introduction of this post, as a result of our society’s futuristic mindset, many high school and college students are encouraged by their school counselors or parents to begin building their resume early. But unfortunately this task can be daunting for many students. Where do they begin? Do they want to be a lawyer? Well then according to many counselors and parents the only way to prepare for that career is to get a prestigious internship at a local law firm. And while I personally believe that it is incredibly essential for a student, especially a college student, to have real life experience in the work force they aspire to enter, I also believe that many people underestimate the beauty of starting from the career bottom so to speak. What do I mean by the career bottom? When I refer to the career bottom, I am referring to starting from a job that is not exactly glamorous or easy. True as it is that by the time you graduate and prepare to enter your career, your future employer will most likely not be won over by your two year blue collar work experience at blank establishment, I do however believe that if students avail themselves to learning from their career-bottom workplace, storing that information and applying it in their future career, they will be much more prepared to face the challenges they may face as a post graduate millennial. I will spend the remainder of this blog post documenting some of the major lessons I have learned working at Chick-Fil-A, as well as how I intend to carry those valuable lessons with me in my future career. Additionally, this post will be written from my personal experience alone, and I do not expect or assume that my experience will be universally the same for all students, but I do hope that it helps to inspire millennial who are also working jobs that have been deemed “career bottom” by our society.
- Work ethic. While there are many things I have learned working at Chick-Fil-A, in my personal opinion, the most valuable thing I have learned working in a career bottom job is work ethic. Working at a career-bottom job has given me the opportunity to experience and learn the beauty of hard work first hand. Unfortunately, I will be the first person to humbling say that by nature I am entitled. But thankfully, working at a fast food restaurant has forced me to realize that my sense of entitlement I have developed growing up can actually hinder me from succeeding in whatever job I have. Over the past year I have learned that the mindset I have often developed growing up with of, “I deserve this,” or “I am too good to do that” can actually prevent me from learning the value of hard work, and unless I learn the value of hard work, I am very confident I will not properly equip myself to survive the competitive work force I expect to enter after graduation. Hard work seems to get a bad wrap by my generation, and consequently I think my generation has undermined how essential developing a strong work ethic is for their future. Based on my observations, if individuals can see that there is correlation between diligently developing a strong work ethic and the intrinsic satisfaction hard work can bring, they will likely start to enjoy working hard at their job. Working at Chick-Fil-A has taught me that learning a new skill and slowing building on that skill with help from your leaders is exciting and unattainable without abandoning all degrees of entitlement. Nevertheless, developing a strong work ethic has become less and less popular for my generation because let’s face it, developing a strong work ethic is not always pretty. Practically speaking, developing a work ethic for me has often looked like cleaning up a milk shake off the floor on my hands and knees, or even getting yelled at by a costumer for not putting down a sufficient number of sauces on my order screen. But despite how horrific these and many other duties can be, I am incredibly thankful for these situations because they have forced me to realize that at my job I am not entitled to simply sit back and relax. In the same way that I am required to work hard in my career bottom job not only to remain at my job, but also to prosper in my position, I have also learned that I will need to abandon all forms of entitlement in order to thrive in my future career.
- Human nature. Last year I had the privilege of taking an amazing Political Science class and I distinctly remember my Professor discussing the mass vs. elite theory. As my professor explained this interesting theory, she asked our class how many students in our class worked in costumer service jobs and whether or not they understood why the framers of the constitution were so terrified about letting the masses vote? Her argument was that the masses which costumer services workers are often forced to interact with are not always the most delightful or rational individuals. And yes, as a costumer service worker I can personally testify that her argument is correct. Granted that I work at one of the most highly esteemed fast food restaurant chains and I constantly interact with many delightful and encouraging costumers, I can still say that I have also interacted with an equal number of insulting and tear-jerking costumers. I vividly remember the first time a costumer got upset at me and violently threw his ice cream cone on the floor. From the moment that cone hit the floor, everything in me wanted to lash back; My blood boiled and I could not believe he treated me so rudely. Fortunately however, over the past year I have learned that the most powerful and influential way to respond to a rude costumer is with you guessed it, kindness. Even typing the previously mentioned truth was difficult for me, but despite how unnatural responding with kindness in the face of rudeness is, it is so very effective. I cannot tell you the number of times that I have personally seen a rude costumer’s entire demeanor change after I responded with grace to their rude remark. There is something about our fallen human nature that recognizes how rude we are being after someone does not respond the way we expect them to. Although I've always grown up knowing that the best way to respond to someone's insults is with kindness, I did not experience how effective that response can truly be until after I started working at Chick-Fil-A. In my personal opinion, starting at a career bottom job, where you have to learn how to interact with rude individuals, can actually prepare millennial students, as it has for me, to interact with a future irrational and rude co-worker or boss.
- The value of education. It is quite normal for a college student to get a job during college, and for that reason I want to over emphasize that I am simply writing about my experience alone, seeing that many college students can actually have a reverse experience as myself after beginning their part time job. Nevertheless, for myself personally, working at a fast-food restaurant has shown me first hand that in order to get a reliable and engaging future job, I must continue to actively pursue further education. Despite the life long lessons working at a career bottom job has and continues to teach me every shift, the work is monotonous and ultimately unfulfilling. God created us to use our talents for His glory and working at a fast food restaurant has actually inspired me to continue to work diligently in my studies in order to Lord willing have a future career where I can fully use my God given abilities for His glory.