Tales of a Minimum Wage Employee

This past quarter, I got my first job as an employee at the ASUCD Coho. Every day, we serve food to thousands of students, faculty, and visitors. Going into this, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but soon found that working in the food service industry was both more challenging and rewarding than I could ever have expected. Seeing my friends and coworkers always brightens my mornings, and even when things are tough, I feel as if I’m learning from my experiences. Here are three life lessons I’ve picked up on in my time as a student worker.

1. Mistakes happen, and that’s more than okay.

Nobody is born perfect. There’s a learning curve to everything, and it’s okay if you falter a little along the way. When I began training at the Coho, I remember feeling like Bambi first learning to walk. Everything seemed to move so quickly around me, and it was a lot to keep up with. Suddenly, I was part of a new environment where I had to remember how many scoops of rice went into an especial burrito, how to change out buckets of sanitizer, where to go to refill coffee beans, so on and so forth. It was impossible to learn all this information at once, and sometimes I felt as if I was barely treading water.

I think that when you’re struggling, it’s important to remember that there are at least a few other people who feel exactly the same way you do at any given moment. My coworkers told me stories about how when they were new employees, they accidentally dropped pizzas and forgot orders. Sometimes they still even make mistakes! Hearing from their experiences taught me that to err is as human as breathing, and we should all be a little kinder to ourselves.

2. Be brave.

The best way to learn is by doing. All the new employees had classroom training sessions and shadowing days, but eventually, there came a point in time where we could go no further. It was time to turn theory into action. Now, I feel as if I learn something new on the job everyday. Although I wasn't very confident in my own abilities at first, I came to realize that they would never improve unless I practiced at them.

If you want something, you have to be confident in pursuing it. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to new people or show off a new skill. All the knowledge in the world won't help you if you never do anything with it. We’re all alive, so we should make the most of it.

3. A little patience goes a long way.

Working in the food service industry means that I spend a lot of my time interacting with strangers. Before I had a job myself, I would often find myself growing irritated when I had to stand in a long line or wait for my food to be prepared. Although I wouldn’t be outright rude, I also wasn't as kind as I could have been.

Now, I’ve gained a huge amount of empathy for workers. I’ve realized how exhausting and physically demanding our jobs can be. I know firsthand the difference that a kind word can make, and I’ve seen the negative impacts of impolite or apathetic customers, too. So next time that you’re tempted to lash out at a service worker, consider how much they do for you, and try to smile instead. The world would be a much better place if we all showed a little more appreciation for one another (and ourselves).