With the dog days of summer fast approaching, and thousands of teenagers starting their first summer jobs, I’d like to offer some advice:
Everyone should work in a service industry at least once in their lives.
They could work in a restaurant, a resort, or the local ice cream shop. It’s a great boot camp for business or just life in general.
My first job was at a private golf course in New Jersey (shout out to Medford Village Country Club) and I learned more working there than I ever did in business school.
Here are some of the business lessons that I learned. It wasn’t all just trying to hustle beers from the beverage cart girls!
1. Help Others: You are in business to help others solve a problem of some sort. If you do a good job at that, then you’ll make money. The better we treated the members, the more tips we made. Unless you are in a business where customer service doesn’t matter, (cable TV industry) you’re going to have to help others. The Beatles said it best, “The love you take is equal to the love you make.” The profit you make is equal to the level of the service that you provide.
2. It Ain’t About Me: One of the biggest criticisms of any young generation is that they’re completely self-absorbed. This isn’t always a fair generalization (I got your back millennials) I think that we can all get wrapped up in our own drama. When you are working in a service industry, no one cares about what’s going on in your life: It’s all about the customer.
This is a valuable lesson to learn in business. Instead of looking inside out, you need to look at your business from the customer’s point of view. What are you doing to serve the customer? Put yourself in the customer’s shoes; would you be happy with the experience that you are providing?
3. How To Deal With Difficult Customers: Unhappy clients will be there throughout your career, it’s as certain as death and taxes, so you better learn how to deal with them. Can you separate yourself from your emotions and hear what an angry customer is saying? Can you resolve it? Can you make the necessary changes so it doesn’t happen again?
Dealing with unpleasant customers also helps us in our own lives. You’re not going to want to yell and scream at an employee for a mistake if you’ve been berated by a customer before. Lesson? Don’t be a jerk.
4. How To Work Together: We used to have to wash and put away 72 golf carts, clean all the members golf clubs, and pick up all the golf balls on the driving range before we went home every night. These are tasks that took several people to complete and we had to figure out for ourselves how we’d finish them. We’d take turns doing the undesirable tasks, assign duties to different team members, etc.
These are all skills that have served me well in my career, and I’m grateful for the four years that I worked there.
What was your first job? What important business lessons did you learn?