Toronto, July 24 (CINEWS) Working at fast-food joints is a grim financial necessity for many people, both young and old, but rarely will you see that fact mentioned on a resume. In fact most would rather erase this phase of life from their memory.
Why might this be the case?
Perhaps, it hinders the chances for a person to pursue a job in his or her field or maybe it’s seen as “dirty work” with minimal wages or work for the inexperienced or unqualified?
Mayank Sharma, 23, has been working at Tim Hortons for the past five years after graduating from high school so he could pay his way through college. Like many other students, Sharma started out believing that a stint at a fast-food restaurant would be short-lived until he landed work in his field.
“It’s okay as your first job because you’re in school and you can do something like this part-time. But, now that I’m done school and still here, I wonder why I’m still here? I should be working within my field, but it’s difficult to find something,” said Sharma, an accounting graduate from Seneca College.
But despite this grim reality a stint behind the counter at a fast-food restaurant has led to them to gain basic work skills and even a strong work ethic.
“I worked at a fast-food restaurant because I wanted to learn responsibility,” said Karishma Patel, 25, who worked at a restaurant in the now defunct Ontario Place several years ago. Currently, Patel is studying medicine in Michigan, USA.
“I learned how to show up on time…It also taught me to follow instructions from my boss. Sometimes, she’d have me on cash and at times, if they needed help in the back to make extra salads, then I’d do that. By closing time, we’d all help clean up, so we could all leave early…So, you learn a lot of team work and multi-tasking while working at fast-food restaurants. You don’t get hired to work for one position, but you become a jack of all trades,” added Patel.
The exposure to customer service orientation that a person receives in a fast-food environment can be beneficial in any profession.
“Being a doctor is all about people skills. You learn a lot at school, but once you’re in the hospital, whatever you’re thinking, you can’t show on your face…it’s the same thing at a fast-food restaurant. Sometimes, there can be so many people at lunch time in a huge cue and you’re tired from standing all day, but you still have to put on a happy face,” said Patel.
For Sharma, Tim Hortons taught him how to deal with tough customers in some really tricky situations.
“This job teaches you to put your ego aside.”
Despite the opportunity to learn, those working in a fast-food environment encounter challenges too.
“I don’t like the fact that I’m on my feet for eight hours. At my Tim Horton’s specifically, sometimes you wouldn’t even get a break or you get called out during your break if it gets too busy,” added Sharma, who plans to upgrade his education.
For others like new immigrants, working at fast-food restaurants is simply a way to make ends meet.
Anita De Almeida, 39, immigrated to Canada from Sri Lanka about nine years ago. She’s employed at three different restaurants- Tim Hortons, Frankie Tomatoes and Cora’s.
“I work all three jobs to make a decent living. You learn very quickly that you need to be super fast on your feet. A slow person can’t work in the kitchen,” she says.
Despite the perception that working at fast-food joints is for inexperienced people, there are plenty of people who’ve been laid off, new immigrants with impressive resumes and highly educated students who are finding work behind a fast food counter. In some instances, law students are becoming baristas instead of barristers.
Most fast-food workers are happy with the skills they learn on the job like patience, discipline, multi-tasking and ability to work in a high-stressed and fast-paced work environment, they are hoping to one day put all those wonderful skills into practice. But such an opportunity remains sadly elusive for many who feel trapped.