Let’s start with a small introduction. Hello and welcome, I’m Sonya, and I am a second year marketing student here at Telfer. I volunteer as an ambassador for the Career Centre, I am the Marketing Outreach Director for WMN - a new student-run initiative at Telfer, and I work for seoplus+, a digital marketing agency.
Now that formalities are over with, let’s talk about how I got here. My very first job was at McDonald’s and I worked there for almost two years. I didn’t want it to be my first job. I wanted to work at Lush, or H&M or at a store that actually conveyed my interests. Yet, those stores would not hire a high school student with no experience. A lot of my friends worked at McDonald’s since it was right across from our school in Guelph, and I wanted to start working to save up for school (let’s be honest, my first pay cheques were not saved because I spent them on cake and things my mom would not let me have).
So I applied and got the job right before my 17th birthday. I worked there throughout the remainder of high school, saved up enough for my entire first year of tuition and met amazing people. I even worked at McDonald’s here in Ottawa (not Rideau St., don’t worry) which helped me pay for rent in first year since I lived off campus. I even worked there the summer after first year because I couldn’t find a “business” job back home and earned enough to pay for second year.
All in all, great experience, right? But how do employers view it and how does it actually relate to business? So many of us have held fast food, retail, or factory jobs. Well, I have great news. Employers LOVE seeing McDonald’s on your resumé. Not only can you draw on all your new transferrable skills in an interview (communication and teamwork), but employers also know how rigorous the training program is, how strict the sales goals are, how stressful it gets, and how many rude customers you have to deal with.
Not only that, but most of employers started out there too. Do you know who else started their career at McDonald’s? Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon; his net worth as of 2018 is 115.7 billion USD. If you like music, stars such as P!NK and Shania Twain have also done their duty at the company. We all have to start somewhere, and fast food or retail is NOT a bad place to start. As mentioned previously, you learn so much there that you can use at any other job - how to work in a team of over 5 people every shift, how to deal with an irate customer (a hugely popular interview question), and how to handle working under pressure and show off your leadership skills.
When I got a job at TD Bank in first year, McDonald’s was the only “real” work experience on my resumé, and I drew all of my answers in the interview based on crazy situations that happened there. Here is a fun example: during the free coffee week in spring, a lady got her small free coffee and left. She came back 10 minutes later stating the coffee was cold. We were so busy and just gave her a new one. She returned again with the same claim. With our store full we barely had enough coffee for everyone that demanded it so it was constantly fresh. The problem with her coffee being cold is she went outside, where it was -20 and snowing, and waited for her coffee to cool down. So, her coffee was cold literally because it was winter outside, but of course, it was our fault. That’s just one of countless examples.
One last thing that working at fast food teaches you is compassion. I now understand why sometimes I have to wait a bit longer for my order during busy lunch times and I will never be the rude person to blame the cashiers for the slowness of the restaurant. Working in restaurants or retail makes you appreciate everything that happens behind the scenes. Often, things happen that are simply out of your control, like the grill turning off, the software on cash registers freezing or running out of product simply because of an overwhelming, unexpected rush can occur.
In conclusion, no job is a bad job. Don’t be ashamed to tell people where you work or hide it from your resumé. You learn so much at your first job and can repurpose those skills throughout the rest of your career journey!