Monday, December 16, 2013

My First Job and What it Taught Me About Career Success

When I was 15 ½, I got a job as a “soda jerk” at an old-fashioned chili parlor/ice cream shop. We served sundaes, ice-cream sodas, and milkshakes, all made with homemade ice cream. My mom’s best friend was a manager of the restaurant and her dad was the owner so I didn’t really have to go through an interview. They had known me for many years and trusted that I would be a good worker.

My job consisted of taking drink and ice cream orders from the waitresses. Not a hard job by any means, but I did end up with more than one milkshake all over my shirt (it’s harder than it looks!). After several weeks of this task, I was asked to start waiting tables.  I was terrified. Talking to people? Carrying food? Tallying tickets? No way! But my manager said she knew I could do it. So I gave it a try.

Before long, I was getting just as many tips as some of the seasoned waitresses. My manager said it was because I was so friendly to the customers. I developed relationships with the “regulars” and started to memorize their orders (“there’s chili and a chocolate shake” or “Here comes double cheeseburger and Diet Coke”).  Again, not a hard job in terms of brain power, but I was physically tired every night when I got home from work. Being on your feet all day serving other people is exhausting!

So what’s the point of all this reminiscing about my first job? Well, it taught me a few things about career success that are still true today:

1. Nepotism and networking are not only okay, they’re necessary to find a job these days. Utilize your network of friends, family, co-workers, and classmates to find out about job opportunities.

2. Having a mentor (in my case, my manager) can make all the difference in the world. I think I may have been okay to remain as a “soda jerk” for a lot longer, but she encouraged me to give waitressing a try and I succeeded!

3. A smile and friendly, positive attitude go a long way in customer service. Even if you’re having a bad day, sometimes you have to slap on a smile and go through the motions because no one wants a grumpy waitress.

4. Hard work does pay off, sometimes financially (in my case, good tips) and in people recognizing your value.
I also learned just how challenging the job of a server can be. So, especially during the holidays (but all year round too), tip them well!

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