The readers of this blog know me as Chief Gruntwork Officer (and Marketing Guy) at the Renton Printery. But those of you who have read my LinkedIn profile also know that I work part-time at a Burger King (BK) and part-time at the shop.
I’m currently saving up for future educational opportunities, but I have learned much from my time on the job there. I don’t intend to work there forever, but I have picked up valuable career knowledge at BK that will stay with me forever.
These are six things I’ve learned from working at BK:
1.) Adapt or Die
Maybe “die” is a strong word, but I quickly learned at BK that if you don’t know how to adjust to changing circumstances, you’re not going to last long.
Truth be told, working at that place can be pretty monotonous. These days I do pretty much the same thing every day. But in the early days, it felt like everything was new all the time. I was using skills I’d never used before, processing tasks at a speed I’d never had to in the past.
But I adapted, and now I’m not just surviving, I’m thriving.
2.) Don’t Complain
You may have heard it said that “Nobody likes a whiner.” I knew this already, but only began applying it when I got to BK.
I learned to keep my mouth shut and my head down, unless it was really necessary. I just needed to do the work and do my part, and everything would be fine.
On one occasion, I was still trying to figure out how to insert patties into the broiler, and I was getting behind in my work. I tried to explain to my supervisor that I was being told to do too many things at once, but she just said something like, “Gosh, Levi! You’re working fast food!”
Lesson: It’s called fast food for a reason, so get to work. Which leads directly to the next point, which is…
3.) Figure it Out
I repeatedly ran into obstacles and problems at BK that normally would have taken me ten minutes to puzzle through. But I no longer had that luxury.
It started when my boss had me get a box of chicken nuggets out of the freezer. I walked in timidly, assured that the door to the big, walk-in freezer wouldn’t lock behind me. I searched around in the dimly lit space, looking for the frozen food. No, not there. Not there either. Rats, where is it?! Dang, it’s cold.
And then my boss, a very hands-on type, ran in, went straight to where the box was, and grabbed it himself without a word. It had been directly in front of me the whole time.
The next time I was sent in, I searched quickly and got the box. But there was a problem: the door was big, shut, and my hands were full. But I didn’t let that stop me.
Thinking fast, I used the flat side of the box to push the door open, pushed it open further with my foot, and got out of the walk-in freezer, bringing the box of fries to my waiting coworker. My supervisor was proud.
4.) Listen to Instructions (and Use Your Common Sense Too)
This one is something I’ve always struggled with, and am still trying to master. But working at BK has made me much better at it.
In another episode involving the freezer, I was sent in for what I thought was “ten apple pies.” So I went in, plastic container in hand, and got ten of those frozen apple pies that BK sells, ran out with fogged up glasses, and presented them to my busy supervisor.
She glanced at me, and I said to her eagerly, “Here’s the ten apple pies you asked me to get!”
She blinked, burst out laughing, and said, “I said a box of fries, Levi!”
Needless to say, I learned that day that you not only have to listen carefully to instructions, but you also have to use your common sense. If something tells you that you’re doing something dumb or that you need to go about things a certain way, listen!
5.) Learn from Your Coworkers
As a corollary to number three, there are only so many things you can figure out on your own. Sometimes you have to ask a teammate or coworker for help. They’re usually perfectly willing to help the new guy. Just don’t bug them too much.
One time I was working the broiler, and I thought I had the hang of it. Unfortunately, that machine was in one of its moods, and it got stuck with a column of frozen patties in the middle of the entry gap. After fiddling and jerking it about for a minute or two, I managed to produce a tray full of icky, messy, raw patties.
My face was turning red, and I could feel the sweat percolating on my brow. But just then, my boss came up.
Taking over, he righted the infernal contraption, staged some new patties, cleaned up the mess, and patiently instructed me in the right way. He didn’t yell, snap, or get angry. He understood the situation and wanted to make sure that I, his employee, knew how to do the job.
What else would a good boss do?
6.) Get a Move On!
Probably the most important of these lessons was the idea of hustle. Speed. Working hard. Not lollygagging or dawdling or shuffling about. Just get to work.
A problem that I observed in several of my fellow workers was that they were knowledgeable about their job, but they cut corners, worked slowly, and sometimes even played with their cell phones while on the job, a clear violation of policy.
But the best workers, like my supervisor and others, made sure to always be alert, swiftly jumping from a newly finished task to the next new task until they had finished. They never let up until break time, and they made sure to get right back to work.
At BK, it takes ten minutes for a batch of bacon to cook in the oven. In those ten minutes, you can prepare another batch of raw bacon to put in after that one, wash some dishes, sweep the floor, and make some meat in the broiler. That’s a lot.
Next time you’re applying for a job, or know somebody who’s applying for a job, suggest that they work in fast food. It’s not glamorous or exciting, but there’s always something to do and plenty to learn for inexperienced workers. That’s exactly what entry-level jobs are for.
Marketing Director at the Renton Printery. Providing commentary on local and business news, along with notes on the state of the shop.