I will probably be in hot water with the ‘young ones’ for this – however, after meeting a lot of them while working in various professional fields, I feel that Millennials, the Gen Y, Z or whatever letter that comes after that – these youngsters are mostly a pampered lot.
Most are spoon fed, demanding easy money with fewer responsibilities and workload. Some take the easy way out by gaining fame and fortune online via talent shows and whatnot.
Plus, it’s who you know, not what you know which counts nowadays.
It’s rather pathetic.
Which is why, after spending a fair amount of working in the food industry, I feel that youths nowadays will gain a lot of life experience by working in it. Here’s why:
Learning to obey and follow instructions
Ahh..young blood. We’ve all been there once. The rage, the angst, the anger – all of which is constantly on the rise every time people disagree or tell them off at work.
You’ll see a lot of that especially in the food industry. I was once humiliated and got told off rather harshly in front of my colleagues for wearing a pair of dangling earrings while working at a bakery. And I thought I could retain my ‘unique individuality of being a hippy chic’ there. Fat chance.
You’re not always right and you can’t always have it your way all the time. The real world works in a hierarchy of aristocrats, fat cats, and top hats. If you’re the boss, there’s always another boss, and their bosses, and their bosses’ bosses, and so on and so forth. You have no choice but to obey and follow their instructions.
Plus, in this particular industry, there are also of customers who always think they’re kings and queens of the world. Which brings me to the next reason below.
Handling angry and annoying customers while maintaining professionalism
This is a Herculean task. It takes nerves of steel to face these sort of people. The saying that ‘customers are always right’ might not gel well with you, and you’re on the dot.
But whenever I encountered them, I always think that perhaps I was once them at some point in life. It’s crucial to maintain your composure and show them courtesy. And in the food industry, you get to experience these, while training how to handle them on daily basis.
Never stoop down to their level – yelling, shouting, resorting to violence never solves anything. It takes a while to ‘master’ the skills of holding your professional (read, ‘poker’) face intact, keeping calm and collected and not stressing yourself over these people. You’ll get used to them over time.
Learning to work as a team
There’s an African proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. Though it’s admirable to be able to work independently and being a go-getter, you can sometimes achieve more by working in a team. You’ll learn how to delegate, negotiate, handle difficult colleagues, getting the spirit of camaraderie, and so on.
I used to work in a bakery with a girl who was seen as a loner – she didn’t say much, and people labelled her as snobbish and conceited. She got the work done though, but she could’ve prepared the over-the-counter sandwiches much faster if she’d work together with the rest of us. She got the flak from the boss and everybody else for that. After talking to her, I realised that she was shy to ask for help and thought she could take on the task on her own.
I learnt something that day – if you didn’t ask, you wouldn’t get anything or anyone to help you.
I’d saved up every penny I earned working part-time in bakeries and cafes while I was studying in Edinburgh. I even refused to pay for the bus pass and chose to walk every day in the freezing cold to work and classes – hey, I could pay for my electricity bills with those bus passes!
But the temptations were aplenty. I saw my friends going on their monthly shopping spree, having their meals in fancy restaurants, blowing out their budget on buying the latest gadgets and stuff – and boy was it hard to stay focused! Most of them were broke afterwards though. I was determined to save (and to an extent being stingy) as I’d wanted to travel to as many places as I can.
Plus, I saw homeless people coming into the eateries I worked at, begging for left-over food. Part of me ached every time I had to turn them away due to company policy, while the other part of me thought – why on earth aren’t they doing something to earn some money? These were able-bodied people and they could’ve worked to fend for their own self. Like I did.
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” – Virginia Woolf.
As with other fields of work, being in the food industry certainly has its challenges. For those who are in it, trust that we make people happy by going to bed with full stomachs. When they are happy, we are happy, and the bosses are happy, which means we’d get either treats, freebies or bonuses!
Hopefully, like me, you’ll be humbled by the experience you gained and use it as a guide for your future.
For similar articles, read 4 Lessons I’ve Learned After Switching from Government to Startup, and Here’s 7 Things They Don’t Tell You About Grad School.