I know. Minimum wage customer service jobs can really suck out your soul and leave you irritated and overworked. But hear me out. Those jobs are important for you. Not only do they give you credibility in the professional world as something to put on your resume, but the experiences you have in them really build character and shape who you are as a person. The people you meet, whether they be co-workers, random customers, managers, or regulars, help show you both the good and the bad in people. You learn how to deal with angry soccer moms with class and how to accommodate disabilities with respect. You have beautiful days and you have stormy ones. But every day matters and I remember both the blessings and the curses fondly.
I had two jobs in high school; both were very different in atmosphere and customer service, but both had atmosphere and customer service nonetheless.
My very first job was at the minor league baseball stadium.
This is the only picture I have of me working at the stadium and I only worked in this area once. No, it’s okay, I’m cool with it..
I took tickets once, supervised in the kid’s playground a few times, but I almost always was outside the kid’s playground gate selling entrance tickets. Yes, you had to pay for the playground. Yes, it was overpriced. Yes, the rock wall is extra. No, I don’t make the prices so please don’t yell at me. Just a typical evening.
The good thing was that I was outside the playground, not in it. Now kids are cute and all, but I really don’t want to be in the middle of a million screaming, omg-where-are-your-parents, omg-don’t-go-up-there children. I dealt with them at the front and that was that. I could see most of the game from where I was standing, so I basically got a summer of free baseball. For the first hour before the game and into the first few innings, it was pretty chill. But when it did get busy, oh boy did it get busy. I just had a drawer of cash next to me, out in the open, and no calculator. I figured out some tricks to fast math real quick.
This job really hit home the fact that kids just want to know that they matter. They want affirmation that they’re valued in this world. When parents walk up with a beer in one hand and a Blackberry in the other with their little bright eyed child stumbling behind them, it’s frustrating. Not only do they not care about being civil to me, but, more importantly, they don’t care about spending time with their kid at a sports game. They want to dump them off and go get drunk with their friends. Glad to be of service.
That’s when you, not just as an employee, but as a person, need to step in. Comment on their dress, their Hulk tattoo, their baseball glove, anything. They may not talk back to you, but they won’t stop looking at you for noticing them.
I met some great people during my time there. I always enjoyed talking with them when times were slow. They were enthusiastic and outgoing and I loved listening to them. They taught me that everything is what you make of it and that you won’t look like a fool if you’re having fun. 😉
After a season there, I got a job at the new Sweet Frog opening up down the road from my house.
I can definitely cross miming off my possible career list.
I was an original employee and as such I got to see the place being converted into a build-it-yourself frozen yogurt shop covered in pink, green, and white. I was there for their first year, so I got to see how the place really grew in the community. I was able to see how the business actually ran, from social media, coupons, special events, birthday parties, inventory, and more. The owner really cares about his store and his employees, which I appreciate. He still messages me on occasion to see how I’m doing. He taught me the right way to manage a staff and that enthusiasm is everything when it comes to customer service.
One of my responsibilities was to play one of Sweet Frog’s mascots, Scoop and Cookie, whenever they were needed. I only put on the fleece outfit complete with ginormous, unbalanced head and stood outside in the 90 degree heat two or three times. I never went to fairs or school events or worked any parties. In theory, it sounds like a lot of fun despite the sweating. You could dance and interact without anyone knowing who you were but I just couldn’t bring myself to go all out. That’s one thing I really regret; I never took advantage of that opportunity. When you have the chance to have fun and go crazy, do it!
All in all, I got pretty lucky with where I was able to work. I never honestly hated either of those jobs. Of course there were days where I dreaded going to work, but who doesn’t have those. When you’ve dealt with hard customers four nights in a row, you’re going to be tired of having to be polite. But you keep your smile and give them the best. You’re getting paid to work on your anger management skills 😉
Currently, I’m an intern at a consulting firm for electric utilities.
I’ve definitely stepped up my game. I don’t have to deal with everyday customers, but I still have to deal with people. I sit at a computer all day instead of standing behind a counter. I see a lot more of my supervisor. Those high school jobs are important because once you get into a true “adult” job, you lose a little bit of that color. The atmosphere may be completely different, but it’s still valuable. I’m learning so much here, all of which will only help further me in my professional career.
I got those less important interviews out of the way in high school and built up my resume outside of academics. I may not have made many connections before, but I’m starting to now. In high school, work is about putting yourself out there and practicing for what’s to come. In college, work is about networking and gaining relevant experience. And after graduation? Well, work is about livelihood. It becomes a part of who you are. You spend forty hours a week, maybe more, at this place and try to not let it consume you. Enjoy what you have now. Learn all you can while it’s more or less handed to you. If you don’t have anything to do, make something to do. I’ve had to become an expert at this, especially during slow weeks at the office. Everything’s valuable in hindsight, so if you can’t see it now, you will eventually. Follow your passion, but don’t shut out what you’re being taught right now.
Go do great things.
~What was your first job? How did it impact your life today?