In a few months, many teens will be starting their first job. For most of them, it will be minimum wage jobs in the fast-food industry.
Believe it or not, even President Obama’s first job was at Baskin-Robbins in Honolulu. He recently shared that he learned some valuable lessons while scooping ice cream, which got me to thinking about what I learn on my first job.
The job at a Baskin-Robbins in Honolulu “wasn’t exactly glamorous, but it taught me some valuable lessons,” Obama wrote. “Responsibility. Hard work. Balancing a job with friends, family and school.”
I will be the first to admit, that I learned some valuable lessons on my first job working at McDonald’s as a teenager in high school. I have always been pretty responsible and a hard worker. My mom made sure of that, as it was embedded in me. I also balanced school, singing in the church choir, and time with family and friends rather well despite picking up a job. The lessons that I learned were priceless, as they had more to do with people.
Starting at the bottom at McDonalds was a real eyeopener. At first, it was a challenge standing for long periods of time over the hot deep frier making french fries or the grill flipping burgers. Eventually, I moved on up to bigger roles like the register and the drive thru window, but in these new positions, I had constant contact directly with customers. Yeah… you get a little bit of the good, the bad, and the ugly (which is similar to working in HR). And of course, everyone was required to clean the restrooms as well as the dining room except for that manager or supervisor that never lifted a finger and their favorite workers. Therefore, I would say that the most important lessons that I learned were more so from working with people and providing service.
Like President Obama, my first job was not glamorous even though I did keep my makeup and uniform fresh and clean. Providing stellar customer service with a smile even when dealing with that irate customer that paid two buck and now thinks that he or she own you and the store is just one example of what I learned at McDonalds. I didn’t expect the work to be easy either. One of my supervisors use to say, if you got time to lean, you got time to clean. The truth is, it is hard work and people are depending on you to do your part and sometimes theirs. Everyday after I finished my shift, I was worn out. I was tired. Even my paws hurt from standing all day.
I also learned how to deal with real issues that have the potential to create a nightmare for any HR Pro such as discrimination, favoritism claims, and sexual harassment, for example. Honestly, I didn’t know how to handle them as a teen. Back then, I had to learn to grin and bear many things just to keep that $4.25 an hour job. I thought I had thick skin before working at a fast-food restaurant, but I believe I add a few more layers.
As an employee, you can’t tell your boss where to shove it when s/he yells at you instead of politely asking you to do something. You can’t snap on that team member that is constantly getting on your last darn nerve because they won’t do their part. You can’t curse out a scrub in the drive thru window that keeps coming back to hit on you day after day although you have told him NO. And you can’t refuse to serve that customer who keeps calling you “Kunta Kinte” despite the fact that your “name” is clearly written on your badge.
It would have been so much easier to quit or go off. Yeah… I know, Right? My first job taught me how to kill them with kindness while providing service with a smile. I’d love to know what you learned from your first job. Hit me up in the comments below and please keep it .