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Imagine for a moment that you’re looking for a job. You’re searching for it for quite some time and it looks like the only place to welcome you with arms wide oped is the infamous McDonalds.
You are informed that they are looking for a staff member, who would be responsible for “greeting customers with a smile, taking accurate food orders, preparing McDonald’s food and restaurant cleanliness”. The vacancy is open and they want you!
What would you think about this job?
Would you be happy that you have the opportunity to start a new career? Would you be excited to learn new skills and meet new people?
Or maybe your thoughts would be different?
“I’m not going to work there, I’m too good for this job!” “I want to have a real job!” “What would my family and friends say when they find out about it?”
I’d say the second version is the realistic one.
Let’s say it straight: most people think that working for McDonalds is a crappy job. Most of them think it’s only good if you’re dead broke and have your student loan to pay. Or if you’re 18, you have no work experience and you want to earn some cash.
This post is about why this way of thinking is wrong. It’s also about that even if you hate your job, it can bring you valuable experience and knowledge.
“What I learned from four years working at McDonalds”
One of the best posts I’ve recently read was by Kate Norquay, who worked in McDonalds for four years.
She started as a regular, one could say: a stereotypical McDonalds worker. She hated her job right from the beginning, but she was failing to find another.
Not only Kate found the job lousy, but also her family and friends. They were constantly asking if she’s still working there, making comments that they could never work at McDonalds and that it’s not a real job.
As you can imagine, Kate was thinking "I hate customer service" and was far from even wanting to do her best.
It was only a gross McDonalds anyways, right?
It played out in my own mind. I was a terrible worker, too slow, clumsy and resentful of my circumstances. I quietly decided that I was too good for McDonalds. I constantly justified myself, ‘It’s suuuuuch a shit job! But I need money hahaha.’ I was a bookish good student who enjoyed intellectual conversation. I wasn’t meant for this useless physical labour.
After few years, Kate realized that this approach was wrong. She asked herself why this particular job was supposed to be worse than others but she couldn’t find the answer.
Working for a big corporation wasn’t the thing. The fact that McDonalds is unethical is something that’s (unfortunately) nothing out of the ordinary on the market, so it wasn’t that. Working for other fast foods wasn’t shameful either, so what was the point?
Then she understood: working for McDonalds was seen as a job for people who cannot do anything else.
There were people with disabilities, overweight people, people who weren’t conventionally attractive, people that couldn’t speak much English, young teenagers, and a lot of racial diversity. People who come from good backgrounds aren’t supposed to end up in McDonalds alongside those who couldn’t do better if they tried.
As soon as she realized that, it struck her how much her work performance differs from her co-workers. She saw how hardworking they were, how much they respected their job and how they struggled to do their best.
She understood that the “I am better than that” attitude “was way more gross than shoveling fries”. She understood that working among people who are doing such an amazing job is nothing to be ashamed of.
She started to be proud of her job.
For me my time at McDonalds was invaluable. Yeah, I never want to scoop fries or make burgers again, but I learned smething more important. I started to chip away at my arrogance. I challenged the ways I dehumanized people for their job. I stopped equating dislike for big shitty companies with a dislike for their foot soldiers. I developed more empathy.
We all can learn from Kate!
What I learned from four days working in warehouse
And now it’s time for my story.
When I was a student, I went to Nottingham for a summertime to earn some money and to get to know England a bit more. Since I had no work experience or any specific profession at hand, I started to work in a warehouse.
It was the worst job I’ve ever had and I hated it.
Driving back and forth was taking around 3 hours and we were working 12 hours a day. That meant that we didn’t have much time to sleep, not to mention any after-work activities or healthy work-life balance.
As well as Kate, I felt like I was made for something better than this. I could not understand that there were people working there for months (even years). I found this job humiliating and shameful.
For the first two days, I felt lonely and depressed (I wish I already knew the Fish! Philosophy). But then, I started to get to know my co-workers and the job became more interesting. I’ve met intelligent and funny people as well as taciturn people with no education.
They might have look different at first sight, but they all shared two things: they all had a deep respect for their job and they all were hard-working.
And guess what.
Just when I started to respect this job, I was sacked.
I got what I deserved. Just when I said to myself that I’m too good to do a menial job, it turned out that I was not good enough to do it. Touché!
Finding the right motivation
If you have read Anna’s post about finding joy in customer service, you may remember the three main job motivators.
According to Howard C. Cutler, author of “The Art of Happiness at Work”, people are divided into three groups: those who work to be paid, those who work to be promoted or those who work because work is a part of their lives.
Anna stated that you can turn your job into a calling regardless of what you do. She said that in all kinds of jobs you can find a higher purpose and it will help you find pleasure in what you do.
I think that it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s difficult especially when you hate your job! So what can we do if we have an occupation we don’t like, but we can’t see our dream job on the horizon?
There is only one thing: we need to force ourselves to think differently.
Here are a couple tips to help turn a bad job into valuable and challenging experience. I’ve tested all of them and I can confirm they work!
This advice may sound super weird, but let me explain it to you: it’s all about the engagement. The more time you spend and the more efforts you make to do something, the more you’re engaged. The more you’re engaged, the more value you see in your work. And that leads directly to the job appreciation, because when you do your best, you start to be proud of what you do!
Let others be your inspiration
If you think that your job is dull and boring, look around. You might be surprised with how seriously your colleagues are treating their tasks and how much efforts they make to get their job done well.
Since you’re as smart as the person working next to you, the odds are that you can also do best. And once you do a better job, you’re entering the path of engagement and job appreciation!
Ask for more challenges
New challenges give you more experience and knowledge. Even the smallest additional task can give you the opportunity to show that you’re an expert in what you do and, well, it can beat the boredom.
Also, being proactive is a great way of showing that you want to grow and you treat your job seriously. Even if there are no specific tasks that you could do now, you can be sure your boss will remember about you when they have a special task!
This one is simple yet deadly effective. The more you know (and like) people around you, the more you’ll enjoy being among them. That includes being at work! People who like you will also most likely engage you in their projects or help you with your problems.
I once worked with a guy who said that he’s not going to make friends with co-workers because he doesn’t mix personal life with work. No one liked him, no one was keen to help him with his job and he didn’t seemed to be happy with his job anyway.
Last but not least. If you hate your job and you think there’s no way you’ll eventually start liking it, you should seriously think about taking a course. Think about what you might learn that would make your job more interesting (or to change it). Learning new skills or acquiring new knowledge can increase both job security and job satisfaction.
Hating your job is your choice
Did you know that McDonalds hires around 1 million workers in the US every year? It means that one in every eight American workers has been employed by McDonald's.
And did you know that the company has a 150% turnover rate? It means that for every 10 employees they have to replace all 10 and from the 10 new ones, they have to replace another 5! It's not a surprise since customers are often rude and demanding.
Let’s say this loud: Americans hate working for McDonalds.
You might ask where’s the optimistic twist. It’s right under your nose on Indeed, a portal where people post jobs reviews. I found there reviews like this one:
Typical day at work is extremely busy. Learned how to deal with different personalities and become a people person. Also learned the value of great customer service.
Productive, great work environment. What I learned was you have to be able to communicate effectively with others and it was teamwork that made things go by quickly.
And this one:
I learned how to work in a fast-paced environment, how to close down the back line. I trained new crew members. Working with the public and giving excellent customer service.
As you can see, even working in McDonald can be an educational experience!
To prove my words, let me tell you about that day when I came across my warehouse colleague.
It was a couple of weeks after I was sacked. I liked her a lot so I was very curious how she was doing. And you know what? She told me that she was praised by her boss (a very nasty guy) and was given more responsible tasks!
To my surprise, she enjoyed her new duties and was satisfied with her job.
So, if you suffer because you hate your job, there is only one thing I can tell you: you really don’t have to suffer every day when the alarm clock announces a start of a new day.
There are lots of people that gone through the same things you did and they were able to learn something valuable from it. They were able to think positive and actually learn from everything that happened to them.
You don’t have to stick in the same job for the rest of your life, but while you’re there, look for the bright sides and learn as much as you can. You’ll be much happier when you stop worrying about it and, finally, you never know what you’ll find useful in your new, dream job.
Photo courtesy of Mahat Tattva Dasa, Boegh, Mike Mozart, Evan Blaser and Daniel Lee via Creative Commons.