I remember my very first job out of college. I had been studying computer programming for a couple of years and was short some credits in order to graduate. In the meantime, my father had suggested I should get a part-time job in order to cover some costs. This was entertaining to me, since I had tried to convince my parents to let me take a year off and work for that very purpose AND to decide what I wanted to do with my life.
Most people who know me assume that my first job out of college was at my local McDonald’s restaurant. However, there was another… (does his best Yoda voice). I actually got hired by a local, big chain grocery store that had just moved and expanded its operations, meaning they needed more staff. I was hired as a part-time, overnight stocker. This suited me fine since my time in college had already saturated me with people and I could work the store during the hours it was closed without having to interact with folks much.
My shift started at 10 pm and I was about fifteen minutes early. yes, that’s right… I used to be early for everything, even back then. My “boss” was a battle axe of a woman who took no bullshit but flung plenty of it. I was immediately tossed out onto the floor to merchandise tons of product in a store I had never shopped in at an age where I had barely done basic groceries (I was 18, at the time). The next few hours were disgusting brutal, putting me through a ringer I should never have experienced. And that’s saying a fair bit, since I had been training with Sensei for years at that point and he doesn’t do ANYTHING lightly.
By 6 am, I was firmly convinced that this wasn’t the job for me, not to mention my blood sugars went totally haywire from working overnight. I advised my boss I wouldn’t be back and left the store. I remember feeling disappointed in myself as I had never quit anything in my life at that point. I suppose since I had only worked one night, I could consider it a trial run and not a failure. But that certainly wasn’t how I viewed it that morning. IN my despondent state, I walked away from the store and made my way into the downtown area where I stopped at the local McDonald’s to grab a breakfast sandwich. Nothing quite celebrates quitting a job like spending money you don’t have.
While I was waiting for my sausage McMuffin, I grabbed an application form and a matronly looking lady walked up and asked if I was applying. I told her I should, since I needed a job. She handed me a pen and said, “Please fill it out now and provide it to me before you leave.” I complied and gave her the application form before walking down to a gas station where my friend Guillaume was also working overnight and would be dropping me off in Dalhousie.
By the time I got home, the restaurant had already called and requested a call back. I did, and was asked to return for an immediate interview. I would only learn later that the gentleman who interviewed me was the franchise owner, himself. He hired me on the spot and the next week was a whirlwind of uniforms, training and development. Within a few weeks, I was working full-time hours. Within six months, I was promoted to shift manager. Within a few years, I was part of the second-level management that oversaw the restaurant.
You read a lot of jokes about “flipping burgers” and the demeaning nature of a low-paying, minimum wage job. But I’ll tell you something; working at McDonald’s for the years that I did taught me a number of things I wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere. Things like precision, speed, accuracy of orders, planning and organizing and teamwork. All of the social aspects of my personality that I had been lacking in high school and even into college had been corrected by the forced necessity of working amongst my peers in close quarters towards a common goal.
That’s why it’s so heartbreaking to see the current state of how these restaurants run. Where staff were motivated and driven to accomplish certain goals throughout their shift as well as get paid for their efforts, it almost seems as though the current generation is more focused on JUST the pay. Order accuracy and restaurant cleanliness have gone out the window. The state of most stores focuses on looking sleek and modern as opposed to focusing on the quality food that made McDonald’s the globe-dominating food chain that it was. Automation has taken away employees’ need to interact and converse with customers unless there’s a problem with their order. It’s kind of sad…
I bring this up because I’ve recently had the opportunity to dine and spend time in a number of different McDonald’s restaurants around the country and have noticed these trends. Although it was never unusual to have a restaurant here and there that was below the expected quality, it now seems to be the norm as opposed to the exception. I’ve carried all of the skills I learned while wearing the Golden Arches into my career. My work and management experience has served me well and inflated into a self-fulfilling prophecy of being the one who manages as opposed to the one who is managed.
This is food for thought for anyone who thinks that any particular job is beneath them or not worth doing. Besides the fact that someone has to do it, it’s important to recognize that there’s something to learn from any job that one does. And the skills and knowledge that you learn from these jobs can carry you forward and be useful in whatever career you pursue. And to the younger generation reading this, do better! If I get a sloppy burger one more time, I will totally super-size my complaint. Food for thought (totally an intended pun)… ☯️