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Your first job can do more than build character, it can teach you the all important soft skills

Your first job can do more than build character, it can teach you the all important soft skills – Parents will often tell their teens that a first job “builds character.” While “character” is somewhat undefinable, frequently just a word to prod youth into starting a hunt for after-school work, there’s something much more important that a job early on in life can build — the skills they need to succeed in the future.

That first job can help build communication, teamwork, time management and the ability to make quick decisions. These skills aren’t necessarily taught in a classroom or found in a book, they are learned through experience. And while these qualities are often overlooked when young people are looking for a career-starting job, they are very much in demand. These skills are highly valued by employers,with communication being the No. 1 most attractive skill for people looking to fill jobs, according to a Workopolis report compiled in March 2015 for McDonald’s.

They’re called “soft skills,” and they can be the make-or-break characteristics when embarking on that first interview with a potential employer. Similarly, a company’s ability to teach these soft skills can also be a make-or-break characteristic to attract a new staff member.

McDonald’s Canada and our franchisees employ 85,000 people to make our business what it is, and 83 per cent of them are young people. In a time when the youth unemployment numbers are nearly double the national average, a first job at McDonald’s is an opportunity to put young people in positions where they’ll learn those important skills. Interacting with customers builds communication skills. Managing a team of crew members develops teamwork. Solving problems under lunchtime pressure hones organizational skills and the confidence to take initiative.

We choose to hire so many young people specifically because of their desire to learn and grow. We also provide scholarships to give them opportunity to continue their educational pursuits, or use our credit program with the British Columbia Institute of Technology to apply their work with us to their education, or perhaps find a career path that allow them to travel.

In the past four years, McDonald’s has reinforced its commitment to Canadian youth by offering as many of those opportunities as possible. Through a once-a-year hiring blitz called National Hiring Day, these events have brought us more than 22,000 outstanding new crew members since 2011. It’s a chance for young people to get a first job, make some extra money while attending school or playing sports, and to work with your friends and create some fond memories.

I know this because I was once a crew member. I started my McDonald’s journey in 1983 in Brampton, Ont. Since that time, I’ve not only held several different positions in the organization, but also worked across two continents and four countries. The time I spent behind the counter taught me the soft skills to complement the education and experience to grow my career.

Now, as chief people officer, I’m proud to say in those 32 years I’ve had the chance to pass those skills along to thousands of young people. Whether in my time training crew members in Russia, in Hungary or here in Canada, I’ve seen the same eager faces and taught the same skills. At McDonald’s, setting someone up to succeed is universal.

Sure, when you work with thousands of people in their formative years, there are bound to be some goodbyes. But on April 15, our 5th annual National Hiring Day, we hope to say hello to 6,500 new crew members.

Sharon Ramalho is senior vice-president and chief people officer at McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Ltd. Since joining the company in 1983, she has worked in numerous positions in Russia, Hungary, Scandinavia, in addition to Canada.



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