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5 Career Lessons Learned from My First Job

At age 16, I secured my first job role, working behind the tills at McDonald's. It certainly wasn’t glamorous but I learned many life lessons that have stuck with me to the present day.

Below, I have shared these lessons:

Hard Work

Working at McDonald's certainly isn’t easy, especially years ago before new innovations such as self-service. I often had to wear many hats, from serving customers, to cooking and at times, cleaning. At an early age, it instilled a sense of discipline around the fact that you need to work hard and be willing to enter the trenches along with everyone else.


My job at McDonald's was the result of many failed job applications for companies I felt would make me look the part to my friends. After receiving countless job rejections due to lack of work experience, I reluctantly pursued a role at McDonald's, secured the role and began my career. At the time, part of me felt embarrassed about letting any of my friends’ know based on the stigma I felt came along with working there.

That being said, I equally realised that in order to buy the things I wanted and to achieve the things I wanted to achieve, I needed to make sacrifices and in this instance, my perceived reputation was one of them. Making this sacrifice was the best thing I could have done at the time. While friends were out socialising, I was working, earning money and learning the life lessons I am able to share now.

The Value of Money

My salary while working at McDonald's at the time was £4.35 per hour. At that time, every single penny I earned counted for something and I quickly learned the importance of saving money. I was paid weekly so it incentivised me to work regular hours in pursuit of a greater paycheque each week. I became more cautious about spending money as I knew how hard I had to work week in and week out to earn back the money I was going to spend.

This is something that has stuck with me to the present day. It has made me far more methodical with how and when I spend my money to ensure I live for today but equally plan for tomorrow.

Working at Pace

McDonald's is a very fast-paced working environment. You often have very limited time to think, you need to make quick decisions and be able to serve customers at pace. This lent itself perfectly to my first sales role which was a high-velocity role that required me to make hundreds of calls per day, trying to book meetings and appointments.

Being able to work effectively at pace helps to think fast on your feet and adapt in ever-changing landscapes.

The Importance of Teamwork

While working at McDonald's, you cannot achieve much, if anything, without working collaboratively. This requirement extends to all roles where communication is a key factor in order to achieve anything. 

This lends itself to the role and space I operate in today where cross-functional collaboration is key. In order to get a transaction over the line, engagement is often required from Finance, Legal and Operations. Being able to effectively partner with other people and departments is a key skill that lends itself throughout all role types and segments.

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Disclaimer: All views expressed on this article are my own and do not represent the opinions or views of my current employer or any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. This post is for informational purposes only and any advice should be followed at the reader's own discretion.

©2019 by Alex Alleyne

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