Life Lessons Learned From One Week Working Fast Food

Earlier this month I was on a blogging streak. I wrote 10 post in 10 days (only 9 appear because I deleted a post regarding a change to my youtube channel). Today’s post, however is the first in over a week. What happened? I decided to snatch an opportunity to get some experience working in the “real world”.

I’d been applying for jobs last month and the one application that came to fruition was a gig at Dairy Queen. My brother worked there a couple years back so the owner decided to give me a shot and thus I began my training last week.

Jobs in fast-food are what people typically call “dead-end” and I’d be lying if I told you that working at Dairy Queen has been my lifelong dream. However, with this being only my second job (my first job was refereeing soccer a couple year ago), I’ve learned a lot thus far. Here are some of the biggest lessons.

(1.) A Smile Goes A Long Way

In my first week I’ve screwed up a TON. I’ve forgotten to give people their drinks, I’ve put the wrong ingredients into blizzards, and I’ve had to have people repeat their orders countless times.

Sometimes people are mildly annoyed with me and sometimes I even get frustrated with myself for not learning more quickly. However, what I’ve found is people are quick to forgive minor mistakes if you show them a smile, offer a genuine apology, and do whatever needs to be done to make things right.

(2.) The Customer is Always “Right”

If the customer orders the wrong thing out of confusion and is upset when you fulfill that order it’s not their fault. You should have used your psychic powers to intuitively understood what they really wanted. I’m only half-kidding. 😉

What I’m really trying to say is that working a job in customer-service is the exact opposite of being a referee. When you’re a ref your decision stands even if nobody else agrees with you. Even when a ref is wrong they’re still “right”. Conversely, even when a customer is wrong they’re still “right”.

This isn’t bad. It’s just how things work. Whether you’ve clearly made a mistake or the customer appears to be making something out of nothing doesn’t matter. It’s your job to fix things while wearing a smile on your face 🙂 (See lesson #1)

(3.) You’re Not Above Mopping The Floor Yet

While many people suffer from low self-esteem a problem of equal magnitude is those suffering from overinflated egos. ZOMG call me Einstein cuz I have straight A’s in my AP classes. Or, I’m the quarterback of the football team and therefore am a demigod.

Regardless of what’s inflated your ego, getting a job in fast food can be a humbling experience because it shows you just how far you have to go. It hammers you back to reality.

I can talk all I want about how many great blog posts I’ve written or how much I’ve developed as a juggler over the last few years. I could spend the entire day telling you about how amazing I am because of all the great things I’m going to accomplish.

However, what you’re going to do doesn’t matter. When it comes down to it I haven’t yet accomplished shit. Every time I have to take out the trash or wash dishes I’m forced to remember this. Fortunately…

(4.) Working A “Dead-End” Job Gives You Leverage

As I said before, working at Dairy Queen isn’t the ultimate vision I have for myself. It hasn’t even been as bad as I expected it to be, but there’s so much I want to accomplish beyond it.

Every time I’m doing something difficult and I feel like quitting I think about my coworkers in their 40’s and 50’s. I’m not ripping on them as I think the majority of them are good people, but at the same time I can’t imagine that working at Dairy Queen has been a lifelong dream for any of them either.

However, I realize that if I don’t push myself to develop skills valuable in today’s economy I’ll eventually end up in the same position as them. That scares the shit out of me and is a powerful thought I use to motivate myself. With that being said…

(5.) Even Working In Fast Food Can Be Enjoyable

Sure, there have been frustrating times, but I’ve also had some fun moments at Dairy Queen as well. Today I had a customer come in and when I asked him, “How can I help you?” he said, “You can take my order.” That little sarcastic remark made my day 😉

Another customer walked up to me today and asked, “Habla espanol? (Do you speak Spanish?)” I told him, “Voy a tratar” (I’m going to try). I took his order in Spanish, (while greatly enjoying my first opportunity to speak Spanish with a native speaker).

We had a short conversation and I was extremely happy to finally have a chance to apply some of the things I’ve learned in Spanish classes over the years. The man was clearly enthusiastic about our conversation as well and it was incredibly interesting to connect with a foreign speaker in his own language.

However, as much as I enjoyed those two conversations the best moment came during my first day of work. I apologized to a woman and her two small children because I was being slow to fulfill their orders. The kids asked me if it was my first day. I said, “Yep”.

I didn’t think much about our brief conversation until they finished their food and got up to leave. Before they left the children walked up to me, smiled, and told me I did a good job on my first day. It was such a small gesture, but it brought such a great amount of joy to me. Those kids taught me the final lesson I’ve learned in my 6 days working at Dairy Queen.

(6.) Small Gestures Can Have Big Impacts

When those kids delivered me that small sincere compliment it made my day and it took them almost no effort. When I used my limited Spanish to speak with the Hispanic man I turned his routine visit to a fast food restaurant into a fun opportunity for him to share his love for his mother tongue with me.

This is probably the most profound discovery I’ve had over the last week. Life really is what you make it. You can bitch about how you’re washing tables, or you can hum a song and try to scrub to the beat.

You can complain about an unsatisfied customer creating more work for you, or you can make a sincere attempt to see things from his perspective and do everything in your power to fix his problem and brighten his day.

One small gesture can completely turn someone’s day around and you’ll find that when you make one person’s day a little bit brighter you make the world a little brighter for yourself and everyone else as well. It feels good to do good and regardless of your occupation, this is something we should all try to remember.

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