I walked in the front door sporting a new pair of black slacks and black Converse. I may have looked sharp, but my hands were trembling as I walked to the counter. My new boss tossed a large polo and used visor at me, instructing me to change in the bathroom. I tucked the much-too-large shirt into my waistline alongside my fellow new coworker who was listing all of the other jobs she held that year. Little did I know, she would be gone after two weeks.
At 16 years old, my first job was as a crew member at my local Dairy Queen. For six months I may have gone home smelling like a mixture of grease and curdled milk, but working at a minimum wage job taught me a lot about life and myself.
The first and biggest takeaway from my time at DQ was I wanted to continue my higher education. According to the food blog Mashed, more than 40 percent of fast food workers are over the age of 25.
After just a month of work, I learned how easy it was and is to get stuck in the “minimum wage cycle.” These types of jobs are easy to obtain, provide light tasks and handsome hours. They are appealing but can suck people in. For the most part, Dairy Queen was an enjoyable job for me. Nonetheless, I did not make plans to stay there for long.
Balancing a part-time job, alongside school work and extracurriculars can be hard. Taking and bagging orders all day compared to studying for two exams and writing a research paper seems like the life sometimes, but never lose track of your goals. Keep grinding and you will see the reward in due time.
At Dairy Queen, I also learned a lot about patience. Restaurants are stressful to work in. It did not take long for me to realize that I needed to push down any anxieties I had about my work performance or communicating with others because there was work to be done and a lot of it.
One of my most distinct memories is from a closing shift I had early on. A group of boys came in late and ordered a handful of Blizzards. One of them ordered the underrated Hawaiian Blizzard, made from a blend of vanilla soft serve, pineapples and bananas. Pineapple is probably the runniest Blizzard topping, which made flipping the treat over successfully, without any spillage, extremely difficult.
I easily flipped over the other Blizzards for the hungry boys, but mentally made a note NOT to flip the Hawaiian.
Of course, they all wanted me to flip it though because flipping Blizzards is the “DQ policy.” After trying to convince them it wasn’t worth it, I ended up flipping the sloshy dessert onto their table. I remember feeling embarrassed in that moment, as they boys looked up at me in horror. I cleaned up that spill and made a new Blizzard before the boys could even blink though.
Now, I slightly cringe when I tell this story and realize that some customers are just plain crummy. Big picture though, this interaction taught me how important patience really is.
Learning that patience is a virtue will lead you to endless success in college and in the real world. There are crummy people everywhere and understanding the importance of balance in your emotions and actions can make a difference in how others interact with you. Sometimes closing your eyes and taking a deep breath is just what you need to keep pushing forward.
Lastly, I learned a lot about self worth at Dairy Queen. During my time there I was taken for granted, as I was a reliable hard worker. After watching my first day buddy leave after two weeks, along with countless others come and go within a months time, I became aware of how valuable I was to the restaurant and my managers. I gained confidence in myself and my work, something I lacked walking in the door that first day.
Never let anyone take advantage of you, because you always deserve better.
When I look back now, I realize how much I took away from a job where I bagged cheese curds and created little curls on the tops of ice cream cones. I learned there is much more to life than what goes on in the kitchen of a Dairy Queen and I wanted to see that.
If you are working at a minimum wage job right now and want to rip your hair out before clocking in every shift, step back and assess the benefits you can be taking away from the experience. Every job, whether it’s flipping burgers or working out in your desired field is an opportunity. Once you lose sight of that, you begin to lose sight of the bigger picture: your success.