The first summer of high school, my father made me get my first job. Any extra money I spent on recreation, like video games, movies, or shows, would have to be made by me. No longer could I ‘sponge’ off of him nor expect any ‘handouts’. I had done volunteer work before, and the purpose of this was to give back to the community because I had been so lucky to be in a family that could provide for me. However, I quickly realized volunteer work is nothing like real work. Volunteering is relaxing and enjoyable; working is tiring and stressful.
This realization of the nature of work came during my job search. No one wanted to hire someone so young with no experience, and I couldn’t even get an interview. I was missing all the summer movies, and this gave me an inkling of the desperation the unemployed feel. I got in touch with some friends’ older siblings, and one was able to recommend a job that even I could do. It was the lowest job one could get at a family restaurant burger chain. I applied to be a busser and was accepted for an interview.
The manager that interviewed me went by Rocky, and he had no problem considering someone young with no experience for the position. He had worked at this restaurant for fifteen years and knew the business like the back of his hand. He’d seen boys like me come in, leave, and return with a wife and kids. I had no idea what to expect from the interview, but it certainly wasn’t this. Perhaps I expected to be evaluated and given and IQ test. I didn’t know that a job interview would be so personal.
Since Rocky understood I was just beginning to enter the workforce, he didn’t ask me the normal interview questions, but instead explained to me his philosophy, and style of leadership and values concerning business and work and gauged my reactions and responses. Rocky explained to me that a company is like a family, and that like in any family, there needs to be a great degree of trust and support among the members. I agreed, even though I didn’t have any other philosophy of work to compare it to. He asked me about my interests and didn’t seem bothered that I didn’t have a specific long-term goal at that point in my life. Other people working the same position as me might be much older because they had fallen on hard times, and Rocky wanted to make sure I would treat them with respect.
After explaining the supportive and friendly company philosophy, Rocky began to describe the responsibilities of a busser in grueling detail. I now know that this is a typical part of job interviews, to make the job sound significantly more difficult than it actually is, but at the time I was wide-eyed and trembling. Even though being a busser isn’t easy, Rocky made it sound as if you carried the entire restaurant on your shoulders. Re-stocking supplies, cleaning, setting tables, taking out trash, resolving any accidents or random situations—it’s a lot of work. And to this day, I believe that you gain a better understanding of how a restaurant operates as a busser than from any other position from chef to server.
What I learned from my first job interview was that companies and managers don’t strictly care about your talent. In a highly competitive specialist position with many equally qualified candidates, or in an entry-level position that requires no experience, talent and ability don’t come into play in the interview. The manager wants someone that will get along with his or her coworkers, someone that will devote him or herself to the job, someone with good character, and someone who is reciprocal to defining moments between management and personnel. This is what Rocky taught me in that interview, that at the end of the day, people are looking for someone willing to work hard that they can trust.