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Working the drive-thru

I got my first job just after I turned 16. After a month or so of applying at sporting goods stores with no luck, my dad brought home a McDonald's application. I had wanted to avoid fast food, but with no prior work experience, the retail stores wouldn't touch me.

Me at 16, thankfully not wearing the blue polyester McDonald's outfit.

Happily–yes, happily–the store manager hired me at the end of my interview and I started working part-time after school and on weekends. Why happily? Well, because it turned out to be an unexpectedly good experience for a couple of reasons. Other than the joy of making buttermilk biscuits at 0530, taking drive-thru orders, and stuffing Happy Meal boxes with the latest toy. 😉

To start, the restaurant where I worked was about 10 miles from home. I didn't know anyone. I made friends (and actually dated) without the stigma of my mediocre high school social status. (This was back when high school kids were still the main workforce for fast food restaurants.) I could just be me without any baggage or history. For this alone, that job was worth it. My confidence and social life were better for it.

McDonald's may be the butt of many jokes, but they excel at standardization and they hold their employees to a high standard. I actually missed out on a portion of my three-month raise because I had forgotten to wear black shoes twice! When I moved to California after six months of hawking burgers (which are not flipped, by the way, we used a clamshell grill), I finally landed a job at a sporting goods store, largely on the basis of a recommendation letter from my former McDonald's manager.

I've had several experiences where I didn't get what I thought I wanted, but it turned out being great anyway. I guess that's one reason why life rarely gets me down.

What about you? Any unexpectedly good first jobs? Or just unexpected results from something you thought would be bad? I'd love to hear.

Tell your friends!


  1. Reply

    It’s funny, I just wrote about my first job not 10 minutes ago on someone’s blog. Here I go again.

    My first job when I was 14 was lifeguard and i did that every summer for about 8 summers. Sure it wasn’t a year round job but when I wasn’t in school I was life guarding. No, it wasn’t the greatest job in the world but to a teenager to get paid to go to the beach every day, it’ was pretty damn good. Some say the best part was meeting girls, sure that was awesome but I admit, hanging on to the back of the life guard truck and driving down the beach was soooo cool. That was my fav part, that and the girls of course. Oh and all the zinc I could put on my face.
    After all those summers on the beach, I swore i would never work in an office or cubical. I did eventually, but I was not happy.

    Good post, now get me a McRib.

    • Reply

      Ha, Rich, lifeguarding probably would have been way more cool. When I worked in sporting goods, the ski/snowboarding department guys were always the hot ones. 😉

      I can totally relate to the office thing, even though I did it for years. I always wanted an outdoor job in a place like San Diego. Never happened, but now I can work wherever I want.

      Thanks for sharing! And…no.

  2. sapphyredragon


    I worked at the Grand Canyon McDonald’s for a summer. Quite the experience getting to meet people from all around the world. Of course, our menu, being more expensive than other McDonald’s, caused a few raised eyebrows. LOL

  3. Reply

    I left my steady job last year to take one I thought would be better – more money, more responsibility, more room for growth. I was fired after 3 months (that still sucks more than I can say, I hate that I was fired, I find it mortifying.)

    BUT… I’ve had a year of time to write, a year to pursue my goal of being an author, a year of not having to put on suits and get on the metro. And in that year I’ve accomplished a lot! I feel like I am now writing what (I hope) will be the final version of my book, and I think I’ve got something people will want to read.

    If I hadn’t been fired, sucky as that was, I would have never made time for myself and my writing.


    • Reply

      Kali: What a great story. Not the being fired part of course. That does suck. I’ve been laid off and that was bad enough. I’m glad something good came out of that experience, and that your writing is taking off. I hope to see your book on the shelf someday!

      Right next to mine. 😉

  4. Christine


    I’ve been working since I was 16 to support myself — my first big job was at a gas station/motel/restaurant for greyhound bus travelers, truck drivers and weary others trying to head south or north via one small highway in the sticks of Northern Canada. I loved it cause I worked 8 days, had 4 days off and got free room and board. I also loved their patty melts.

      • Christine


        I wish I could say I didn’t blow that paycheck in winterpeg every eight days,… haha. Yeah, it was a good deal except for the whole supporting myself at 16 ,,,

  5. Rylee


    My first job, I was pre-teen – I want to say 8 and 9, but probably older. This was two or three summers in a row selling custom Christmas cards door to door in northern Central Valley California. I had examples, that was the custom part, you wrote your family name or whatever and it came so you could just address the envelopes and send them. Remember this is door to door in my neighborhood where I didn’t know what “no soliciting” signs ment. Can we say silly young person sweltering in the heat? I think it gave me confidence. But looking back on it now, I’m a little mortified. Oh, well.

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