What can a Teen Learn at a Fast Food Restaurant Job

McJob ascended to the pantheon of our lexicon in 1993 when the American Dialect Society named it its Most Imaginative’ buzzword at its annual meeting. The word broke through the stratosphere a year later with upwards of 100 U.S. citations, but lamentably any prestige assigned to McJob or to those who work McJobs ends there.

A “McJob” is loosely defined as a low-paying, low-prestige, dead-end job, and as its etymology implies, refers somewhat disparagingly to the entire fast food industry.

There are a number of inherent problems with the blanket paradigm that all wage-work in the service industry is demeaning, vapid, or even counterproductive to professional development. Teens who possess the insight and initiative to fully engage in whatever work they do are privy to a world of economic and professional opportunities, but it bears clarifying that fast food restaurant jobs – in and of themselves can create special advantages and possibilities for open-minded, ambitious, and savvy teens.

First, most fast food restaurant outlets are either run by multinational corporations or model their management systems after those of the successful global industry players. Fortune magazine named McDonald’s as the No. 14 company in its Top Companies For Leaders 2007, and No. 11 in its North American list. All McDonald’s employees are trained by the company’s personnel development program and indoctrinated into its corporate culture. That culture focuses on social responsibility, diversity, and demonstrates a formidable attitudinal and economic investment into employee development, according to the Mcdonalds website. So whether you are one of the 200 managers personally reviewed by McDonalds CEO Jim Skinner, or just learning the timing of the deep fryer, you have access to the professional secrets of one of the world’s most successful and respected organizations.

Fast food restaurants have traditionally been the purest “equal opportunity employers” and consequently hire from a broad range of ethnicities, age groups, educational backgrounds, religious and political persuasions, and cultures. Accordingly, fast food restaurants operate as the nexus of ideas, languages, cultures, and life philosophies, almost like a microcosm of a global community. If teens choose to appreciate and learn from their broad exposure to so many ideas from so many diverse sources, it is not farfetched to imagine that the education available from jobs at fast food restaurants can rival that which they receive at their schools.

Society, the popular media, and apparently even the American English lexicon reinforce the idea that jobs at fast food restaurants are demeaning to one’s self-esteem and therefore undesirable. Through working at fast food restaurants, teens can personally witness the dignity, sense of professional ethics, appreciation for economic opportunity, and good ol’ fashioned hard work of employees in the industry, even in the face of stigma and prejudice.

Certain so-called “social determinants” are too often blindly and universally assigned to occupations, pursuits, and endeavors, thus precluding the attendant inherent advantages and benefits from ever emerging in any appreciable manifestation. Given half a chance given any chance teens who work at jobs in fast food restaurants can and should discover the abundant natural advantages pursuant to professional and personal development provided by the venues themselves and by their colleagues.

Da da da da da, they’ll be lovin’ it.