Answer honestly now. How do you feel about applying for an entry-level fast-food job? You know, flipping burgers, churning out French fries or assembling submarine sandwiches. Is this the kind of job you could see yourself happily doing or not? Would you feel proud of your role if you ran into some old friends and they said, “So where are you working these days?”
For some, these kind of jobs are a joke; they are used often as a measuring stick that refers to a job at the bottom of the success ladder. These may be the kind of jobs that you envision a teenager having as their first job ever. In your mind it might be okay for somebody else to have this job, but not for you personally. And why is that? I think it’s safe to say it’s because of your own views and those of society in general. There isn’t a great deal of prestige associated with these positions. And they are the job that many people think anyone can do as evidenced by comments like, “Why don’t you just go work in fast-food for a while; just get a job man!”
But hold on. What really makes you think just anybody can work in these jobs? If you’ve spent any time at all in a donut shop, a hamburger joint, pizza or pita shop, chicken or sandwich chain, you would see there is a difference even here in the people who are motivated, pleasant and successful, and those that are poor fits and don’t last long. If anybody can do it, why can’t some?
Think of the skills these people use in their daily jobs. Someone is on a headset taking orders at a drive thru, (speed, accuracy and listening skills), someone is reading a monitor and assembling the order (teamwork, speed, accuracy, collaboration), and someone is handing you the product and sending you on your way (interpersonal, public relations and problem resolution skills). And in the restaurant itself? You can see a team in the back cooking at their stations, assembling products and orders, moving quickly and a Manager keeping everybody moving and helping out where and as needed. In addition to this, you’ve got someone else mopping up spills, cleaning tables, refilling condiments and utensils, emptying garbage and recycling bins, tidying up the outside property and everybody’s favourite, washroom detail. Whew!
Some employers look favourably on applicants who have spent some time in the fast-food industry. The reason is that they have generally learned what teamwork and hustle are all about. So in the jobs they need filled, someone who is motivated to work and works well in fast-paced team settings can take those same skills and apply them in their own workplace, even when that job is in a high-rise office setting. Different job, same skills.
And while some of those people in those entry-level jobs have ambitions to only work there a short while until something better paying comes along, there are some who make long careers out of working in the fast-food industry. They go one to become Managers, Supervisors, Franchise Owners, or they start-up their own businesses using the skills they picked up when they were on the front line themselves. And some are more than content to work for years in these roles on the front line; in fact it’s a great fit.
You’ll not only see the stereotypical teenager in their first job serving you if you look. You’ll notice the 50 something employee who appreciates an employer giving them a shot at a job. You’ll find adults working there part-time day after day because the schedule fits with other things going on in their lives. And you’ll never be able to see it with your eyes and appreciate it, but yes you’d also find some people with broken self-esteem and mental or physical health issues working in these jobs, pushing themselves to see what their bodies and minds can actually handle.
Some take these jobs a few hours a week to get out of the house, get connected to others and keep from being socially isolated. Fast-food joints aren’t hiring these people as charity cases however so don’t make that mistake. They hire people based on their ability to do the work and build the brand. And have some appreciation for the high turnover rate of people coming and going and the constant hiring process the Manager’s have to undergo.
A fast-food job is something to be proud of on a resume if you have the good sense to speak of it with pride and not embarrassment. If you can highlight the skills you used on a daily basis these jobs can work for you in demonstrating your capabilities. Think about it for a second. Doesn’t providing appropriately cooked food products, delivered with exacting consistency to customers who demand speedy service count for something? I’d say that’s a pretty significant job. After all, don’t you think customers are quick to complain if the order takes a couple of minutes longer than they’d like or the pop is the wrong flavour, or you got fish instead of a chicken burger?
Reconsider that fast-food option, and apply with your head held high. At the very least smile when you go in for your coffee, compliment that front counter server and make their day by thanking them for their great customer service. You’ll put a smile on their face, and maybe – just maybe their boss will be within earshot when you say it!