WINSTON-SALEM, NC - When I turned sixteen, I was ecstatic to be able to join the workforce for the first time. I started off as a cashier at a grocery store and with a bounce in my walk and a cheesy smile on my face, I was eager to earn my own money instead of my meager allowance that I was accustomed to. I’m also a huge conversationalist, and looked forward to working with the public and speaking to strangers as I ran their items across a scanner into a plastic or paper bag.
I soon learned the downsides, though. The biggest one was people’s demeanor. I wasn’t completely naïve, I knew there were some mean people in the world. But my God, some people were terrible. I was always raised to show everyone respect, and to appreciate a working person. Not everyone was taught this lesson, I am still to this day flabbergasted by how rude, nasty, condescending, disrespectful, and obnoxious some people could be. I eventually grew some thick skin and would let rude customers roll off my back, but it still bothered me to some degree, even now working as a waitress when I run around providing the best service possible to sometimes the most demanding customers, only to be tipped very little if anything sometimes. Even some of my classmates have treated me this way when they have come to eat at the bistro that I work at right off of campus.
With these experiences, I have become an adamant believer that everyone, especially people my age, work in the customer service or some other job that deals with the public, even if they can afford not to work. The lessons that there are to be learned are critical and would resonate with those who are privileged to not have to work while they’re young. For one, it’ll teach people to be more empathetic and appreciative of others’ hard work. If some of my classmates knew just how exhausting it can be to work on my feet for hours at a time and then come back to my dorm to stay up another few hours to do homework, they would be just a little more respectful when they come into establishments.
They would show more recognition for how some jobs take much more effort than they seem and would be more willing to tip knowing that the tips I receive is all of the money that is actually going into my pocket. They would get over the superiority complex that they hold over people who hold customer service jobs. Just because they are the customer, does not mean they are always right.
Secondly, it will teach them how to deal with different types of people. As college students, we are the future of our society and will be taking over businesses, politics, school systems and other leadership roles. With that said, it is imperative to be able to work with people that come from a different walk of life than you, and having a job that deals with the public will teach someone that.
Lastly, it will give you the ground work experience necessary to efficiently lead. Too many corporations, and establishments hire people who may have book knowledge, but not hands- on knowledge. Not everything can be taught from a book, and those who are in charge who have experience in the ground level can make much better decisions because they have seen for themselves what actually works and can foresee what wouldn’t work.
Working with the public is about more than making money. It teaches you things that you wouldn’t learn otherwise. It can shape your demeanor and interactions with others in a positive way, something that our society needs. I plead to all students to pick up a job just to see what it’s really like and not quit after two weeks just because a customer hurt your feelings. You’ll be glad you did it.