What I Learned From Working at McDonald’s

It’s true. I worked at McDonald’s. Actually, I worked at four McDonald’s in two states over a period of eight years from ages 16-24. I would highly recommend that everyone work in some type of similar customer-service job at least once in their life. Here’s what I learned during my employment at the Golden Arches:

  1. Don’t be shy. When I started at age 16, I was painfully shy. Working the counter at McDonald’s taught me valuable interpersonal skills and confidence.
  2. Clean as you go. This used to be one of the managers’ favorite mantras and it has stuck with me. Whether it’s the clutter in your house or conflict in relationships, it’s much easier to clean as you go than to let things pile up. (A close corollary was, “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.” I’m still trying to teach that one to Dave and the boys.)
  3. The customer is always right. OK, I have learned that this is not always correct, but still, the first assumption should be that the person you are dealing with has something valuable to say.
  4. Money isn’t everything. One summer I realized that I could earn a whopping $6.10 per hour working third shift (!) in the stuffing department (!) at the local Johnsonville Sausage Co. One week into it, I understood why a lot of people live for the weekends. Five weeks after that, I was begging for my job back at McDonald’s, for $2 less per hour. It’s better to work a job you like for little pay, than to get paid more in a job you can’t stand.*
  5. There’s nothing like being part of a high-functioning team. I don’t care whether it’s working the drive-thru or working for a church, it is extremely satisfying to feel like everything is clicking and everyone is on the same page, especially when the place is busy or the pressure is high.

What did you learn from your early working experiences?

*I still eat Johnsonville brats and McDonald’s hamburgers. I don’t know if that tells you anything except that maybe I don’t have very high standards for what I eat.

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