mcdonalds_logoAs a current university student, jobs are a hot topic in many of my conversations with my peers. As we battle it out for the best summer positions, the topic of past experience always comes up. So when I, sometimes begrudgingly, confess that I spent four years as a McDonald’s employee, I’m often met with a somewhat disregard for my “experience”. Every now and then, someone will acknowledge that, from an employers’ perspective, that experience may be valuable and I have so far found this to be true. However, whether you think McDonald’s is a job meant for those who can’t get a “real job” or a stepping stone towards success, you’re right. It all depends on the person behind the counter and what side of the argument they fall under.

When I first started at McDonald’s, I didn’t expect to learn much beyond how to operate the till and make a batch of fries, but over those four years, I learned more than I could have imagined. I didn’t appreciate the skills that I cultivated until well after the fact when I saw that I had developed a strong skillset and opportunities began to present themselves. Here are the top four things I learned in those four years:

1.) How to really listen. Ask anyone who has ever worked a day in customer service and they will tell you that listening to the customer is the most important thing to do. At the end of the day, you are there to serve them and make them happy. Listening to what they are asking for will save you a lot of time and energy when you get it right the first time and create a positive customer experience.

2.) Sometimes, you need a thick skin. At fifteen, I was insulted, harassed and patronized more than ever in my life. Some McDonalds’ customers have a predisposition about what it takes to work in the restaurant. When they see the job as mindless, they always believe that they could do it better. Learning to understand where the line is between a rational complaint from a customer and someone taking their bad day out on you is crucial to being successful in any customer-interaction role. How you choose to handle it is where you show what you’re really made of.

3.) Multi-tasking and working under stress. While I’m still early in my professional career, I have experienced high levels of stress through other facets of my school and work life. A rush of orders at McDonalds trained me to respond well to stressors in the workplace. Learning how to multi-task, delegate and stay polite and collected while customers yell, managers yell, and clocks count every second you’ve gone over the target time are skills that are applicable in all high-stress situations. Every job has stress and if you can learn how to mitigate stress and leverage it to your advantage, you’re already ahead.

4.) Whatever you’re doing, do it like you mean it. Putting 110% into something you love to do is easy. Putting 110% into something you dislike is a bit harder. When you’re repeatedly led to believe that your job is lesser than other jobs and that you’re easily replaceable, it’s hard to find motivation and enjoyment in the work. Taking pride in my work, even in a sometimes thankless job, helped me to learn to look for places I can add value beyond what my job description might read. As I’ve moved onto other jobs and positions, I strive to always exceed the expectations set for me by myself or by my employers. The respect for a job well done transcends every position you will ever hold and will set you apart.

Four years at McDonald’s taught me a lot of things that have helped me to be successful so far in my professional life. As the newest member of the Ideba team, I can say those little lessons are paying off and have set me up for continued growth and learning throughout my future work experiences.

– Kaila Joynes, Junior Consultant