How to Get Out of Working Fast Food - Forever
Early in 2015, as I drove to the first day of my new job, I found myself getting off the highway an exit early so that I could drive through the neighborhood I grew up in. Soon, tears of joy were streaming down my face.
The crisp winter air cooled my flushed cheeks as I stepped up to the building where I now work.
As I walked in, I felt for the first time like I had arrived and that my future was worth looking forward to.
Stuck in Fast Food
I grew up poor. I grew up in a family that has spent their entire lives in the food and retail business. My father went to prison when I was 13 and my mother worked multiple jobs just to survive. By age 25, I had already worked at more than 20 different places (telemarketer, busser, dishwasher, newspaper delivery, fast food — to name a few).
Throughout my entire 20s, I was stuck in a dead-end career path — scratch that — no career path. I worked at pizza places and coffee shops. My resume sucked. I had no marketable skills and I didn’t know what to do to change that.
The year I turned 30, I decided I’d had enough.
I quit my job. I ended an unhealthy relationship. I went back to school. I lost over 140 lbs. I found someone who loved me and I loved back. I focused on doing things that would add value to myself and others.
While I worked on getting my education and improving my skills, I started a side project that wound up helping me change my life. I created Sketchpad Comedy, a monthly sketch comedy show. I had no idea where it would lead me and who it would have an effect on.
Writing and performing comedy was something I loved to do and, thankfully, I’m too insecure to try to do things all by myself. So, I invited a group of people to team up with me.
Soon, I found myself surrounded by people who had the kind of careers that I had hoped to have someday. Those people began to help me, coach me and encourage me to start applying to better jobs. Jobs where you don’t end up with trash can water on your face and shirt.
With the guidance of others and newfound confidence in my abilities, I began to apply to places that I wouldn’t have even considered applying to before.
Then, it finally happened; I got a great new job.
Once you’re in, you’re in for life
I started a career at a marketing agency in downtown St. Louis. It’s the best work environment I’ve ever been in. I have complete autonomy and my employers trust me to do my job well. In the world of fast food and retail, you have a supervisor over your shoulder telling you “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.”
It’s funny how the least important jobs always have the most demanding micro managers at their helm.
This place was different. It was unlike any place I’d ever been in my life.
For some, working food and retail is perfectly fine. A job is a job. But, for me, I never wanted the same life my parents, aunts, uncles and everyone else around me had. But, now that I’m out of that line of work, I hope I never have to return.
In fact, I’m building a work history to ensure it. The work hasn’t stopped because I got this new job. On the contrary, I’m using tools and opportunity to continue learning, because I never want to go back.
I wanted more in a career and I didn’t want to hope that it would happen. I made it happen by doing side projects, teaching myself skills and getting a little lucky.
Things I did to change my career
I was already blogging, but I took it up a notch and blogged more consistently. I read behavioral psychology, leadership and business books. I taught myself email marketing and SEO. I developed a portfolio of writing examples and I learned that “network” doesn’t have to be a dirty word.
If you feel stuck in a career and want a change, take a job description from a type of company you want to work for. List the credentials you need and figure out how you can gain those credentials. For most jobs, you don’t have to go get more college degrees. There are plenty of online resources.
Take advantage of them.
If you want to be a writer, write! If you want to be in marketing, read marketing blogs from Ramit Sethi, Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuk. No matter what it is you want to do, someone on the internet is doing it. Consume what they produce. Develop your skills and your own viewpoints on how things work.
Start doing things on the side that will pad your resume and impress someone.
You can’t expect someone to know you have something to offer, you have to actually offer it to them.
Also, since starting this new job and career I’ve developed skills that get me freelance work and I’m building by comedy organization into an actual business — all because of the new environment I’m now in. My next career change will be running my own business.
A far cry from slinging coffee and pizzas.
You may not have the same life experiences I’ve had. You may not want the same future I want. But, if you’re trying to make a change in your life, you have to be the one to make it.
You have to step up and do the work to make change happen.
You also have to get a little bit lucky. We all do. But, it’s a helluva lot easier to get lucky when you’re working hard than if you’re sitting around feeling sorry for yourself.
Get really good at something. Something that will impress one person.
Through that, I fully believe you can change your life. I’ve seen it firsthand. And when it happens for you, I hope you’ll take a moment to take it all in and then inspire other people to change their lives too.
What are some actions you’ve taken in order to change your life and career?
Someone can learn from it.
A resemblance of this story was originally published on worktheory.org.