by: Lanisha porter
Often my days went as such: after school lunch, I would sign out and head to my law internship around noon and work until 5:00 p.m. I would then walk 10 minutes to the bus stop and catch the 5:15 bus home. At 7:00 pm I would then walk to McDonalds, clock-in and work until 11:00 pm.. This had become my 16-year old routine which encompassed my personal ambitions and interests—school, work, studying, extracurricular activities, repeat.
Within this routine I would say McDonalds, in particular, equipped me with a very marketable and unique skillset that would not only benefit their business, but also set forth to mold my own professional skill and who I would become. I learned:
The Stretch of a Dollar
Simply put, the tree of prosperity is watered by the blood of sacrifice. And believe me, I quickly learned the sleep sacrificed to make a dollar. I also grew to know the extra hour I’d have to make up for studying because I decided to pick up another hour at work. It’s in these moments of sleepiness, personal sacrifice, and over-exhaustion that I deeply learned the value of a dollar. I felt every minute I spent on McDonalds time clock for 6 months working to buy that car. I especially felt it when I had to opt out of going to parties, enjoying a day out with my friends, or sacred time away from my family. Knowing the time and labor efforts that went into each of my paychecks, I also became very frugal in the ways I handled my money. I came to discern the best way to make my dollar serve me which often meant I settled for efficient over extravagant. For instance, instead of getting a stretch limo to make a grand statement at prom, I convinced my date it was better to just drive ourselves. Instead of joining my classmates in Panama for Spring Break, I opted to just invest in my high school memories and pay for my senior pictures. Or, opposed to buying Michael Kors sandals and purses, I stuck with off brand styles and designers that were cute but way less costly.
How to be Professional under Less Than Ideal Circumstances
Working in public service can sometimes be dehumanizing because customers often seem to forget you are human. They unfairly forget you too have emotions, and have a life outside of work that you would like to tend to that is being held up when they change their order 5 times and you were supposed to clock out 27 minutes ago. There have been moments I have been gravely insulted, undeservingly disrespected, and even my life put in danger, but yet I wore my uniform proudly and remembered I was a representative of a brand bigger than myself, and continued to conduct business the best I knew how. Often times this meant I stood there smiling limiting my response to “yes ma’am/no ma’am” or “yes sir/no sir” while being cursed at. Sometimes this meant I had to stoically pretend I wasn’t feeling my own pain while it seemed like mother-nature was driving a screw driver through my uterus. Most memorably, while short on staff, I had to continue to work the drive-through window after there were reports of a customer driving around the building with a gun. There was also a time a customer pepper strayed someone in back-drive. In all of this commotion, I had to learn to pretend all was well to help keep the customers inside calm to avoid massive panic. Working under less than ideal circumstances taught me about controlling my reaction. How you react under pressure isn’t only a confession of your truest character, but it sets the invitation on how you want others to react as well. Working in fast-food service definitely taught me that customers are temperamental but when you learn how to stay civil, this gives you the moral authority to ask the same of your coworkers and the customers.
It’s a very cliché saying but it still rings true for me and what I was blessed to learn at McDonalds. I learned to treat the janitor with the same respect I gave the man who owned the store. When you learn this lesson you learn one of the most valuable lessons that there is to learn in life: you learn a persons human dignity should not be predicated on their status. I practiced respect by speaking to everyone when clocking in and clocking out, knowing and remembering peoples name, or if someone needed an extra hand, even if it wasn’t necessarily my job, I lent it. At the end of the day the goal was to achieve numbers and serve customers; I did my best to remember that goal and work with those around me to make sure it could be achieved.
The Pride of Ownership
After 6 months of the same repeated routine, I was able to purchase my very first car in full at the age of 17. There was no greater feeling than to embrace the fruits of my labor and bask in the excitement of my independence. I remember the very day I deposited all my checks into my bank account and saw how much I had saved. That sense of security fleshed through me as I realized how much of an accomplishment this was to own my very own car—no repossessions, no one threatening to take it away for punishment, and no car payments. My car wasn’t the prettiest car or the newest car but it was something that was hard earned with my integrity in place and to me that was incomparable to any new car on my block. Not only did I pay for my own car, but I gained valuable gems of wisdom along the way while securing the means to pay for it.
Suggestive selling, incentivizing, team building, and strategic marketing are things that were also learned at McDonalds, but the thing that had prompted me to flourish for life after McDonalds was suiting up in my uniform day after day and going to work for what I wanted. I’d never trade who my McDonalds experience crafted me to be and the start it gave me.
Welcome to my views from this horizon!