The true value of working in a low-paying service job

Would you work as a cook at a fast food restraurant if I told you it would be a valuable experience? How about a waiter? Or even a dishwasher?

A year ago I made a seemingly crazy decision to work as a cook at a local fast food restaurant, Best Fries Forever, and discovered that there was a lot more to gain from working in a low paying job than I expected.

Polytechnic students taking up part-time jobs during term breaks and holidays are now commonplace as there are usually no assignments given for the breaks between each semester. However jobs such as waiters, drivers, cleaners, cooks, retail operators and the like are not particularly popular because they are generally lower paying service jobs. Admit it, most of us only work during the holidays for one thing – money.

Despite earning only $5 per hour at the time, I took the job out of desperation and urgency after my dad lost his, and the family began struggling to make end’s meet.

As the months went by and I came to terms with being constantly burnt by hot oil, mopping grime off the floor, scrubbing dirt from utensils and taking the thrash out, I realized just how protected and snobbish I was in the past. I never really did any chores at home and thus performing these tasks seemed difficult and unreasonable to me. Yet, I must say, it was a very humbling experience.

Humility – one of the biggest lessons I learnt, slowly altered my behaviour and I realized I was beginning to treat the people around me better, especially those who served me in return, such as when I am buying food or when someone helps clean a table for me.

This little habit of being nicer to people around me proved to be of great value especially during my Student Internship Programme last semester. Many human resources experts agree that little acts of kindness shown to your colleagues can help create a more positive working environment for everyone, ultimately improving work quality and even lowering stress levels.

The director and founder of Sinema (the company with which I had my internship with), Nicholas Chee, often shared with me his opinions that: “the best people to work with, and often the more successful ones are always those who have been in service jobs before. They know how to relate to people, control their temper and work smart. They are skills you cannot learn from working in an office.”

Though it is true that such jobs may not provide you the relevant technical skills and industry knowledge crucial in developing your professional portfolio, employers also seek for soft skills in a person such as humility, creativity, reliability, adaptiveness, integrity, etc, which you can definitely learn from being in the service sector.

Now would you consider working in a service job if I told you it would be a valuable experience?


About Damien Teo

I am a 3rd year student doing a diploma in Communications and Media Management in Temasek Polytechnic. This blog was created as part of an assignment in my course of study.

Posted on February 8, 2012, in Commentary and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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