Why Your McJob Could be the Smartest Career Move You’ll ever Make

Fact: 42% of undergraduates balance their studies with part-time work. By day, they may be studying Banking and Finance or Education. By night, they’re taking orders at a corner cafe or managing inquiries in a call centre.

But why bother? The clear majority of these jobs are unstimulating, low-paying and hold few prospects. And you know what, the Oxford English Dictionary even agrees – grab it off the shelf and look up “McJob.”


Photo Credit: Life/Tim Boyle/Getty Images

And if you go back several years, you may remember this definition caused quite an uproar. McDonalds took offence to the definition, and aggressively sought to have the term refined as “a job that is stimulating, rewarding and offers genuine opportunities for career progression and skills that last a lifetime.

Stimulating? Maybe. Rewarding? Potentially. Genuine career progression? If they say so. Skills that last a lifetime? That, we can assure you, Ronald got right.

After all, what do Andrew Card (former White House Chief of Staff) , Jeff Bezos (Amazon boss), and Jay Leno have in common? They all started off by flipping burgers at McDonalds – the original McJob.

Granted, not all of McDonald’s 40,200 UK workers aged under 21 will go onto enjoy spectacular careers. But all will develop skills that will tremendously enhance their employability – if they and their employers have the right perspective.

Innovate CV TV spoke to Dee Dee Doke, editor of Recruiter Magazine. While the bulk of her guiadance was mainly relevent to journalism grads, she did offer some universal gems of advice.

Note: Watch the first 45 seconds of Dee Dee’s interview for a lesson in demonstrating genuine enthusiasm.

On the question of work experience, she was adamant that even burger flipping provides a candidate with a competitive edge:

“Any kind of work experience that has taken someone into the working world is invaluable. I think people have a better grounding in life and work, if perhaps they’ve had to go work in a fast food place for a few months – or years – before moving onto that great job. I think they’ll understand people better, I think they’ll understand themselves better, and I think they’ll have better business skills to bring to high flying jobs.”

Let’s break down Dee Dee’s points, one by one:

1. “Better grounding in life…”

Such jobs demonstrate a significant degree of personal initiative, and require a healthy dose of responsibility. After all, you better do what it takes to make it on time to your 6am shift. Can’t? Well, you’ll have to work out a solution.

While everyone grows up with a degree of appreciation for the notion of personal responsibility, the world of work is often an alarming wake-up call:  You’ve got obligations, and your decisions matter.

2. “Better grounding in work…”

Journalist John Hand worked at McDonalds as a 16 year old: “If you see a job as meaningless, it will become meaningless. Plenty of my colleagues did just that, making it much easier for me to shine. Within weeks I had the full complement of stars on my badge and was gradually given more managerial responsibilities – training colleagues, stock-taking, cashing-up, even leading shifts with 20-30 colleagues.” John gained a life-lesson about solid work-ethic and its rewards. Not bad for a 16 year old.

3. “Understand people better…”

You’ll have to work – and work well – with people who are different to you. Regardless if you differ behaviourally, culturally, or personality-wise, you’ll have to get on with it. And you’ll learn plenty in the meantime. John Hand looks back: “As a 16-year-old occasionally managing the work of people sometimes two generations older, I learned that mutual respect is the most important tactic to get the best work from any colleague.”

Andrew Card, reflecting on his time in McDonalds, wrote in the Wall Street Journal:”It wasn’t long before I became a shift leader and then the night manager. Boy, did I learn how to manage!”

4. “Understand themselves better…”

What motivates you, as an employer? What de-motivates you? What are your strengths? Weaknesses? When to you lose concentration? Why?  What responsibilities to you enjoy?

These answers may provide insightful clues to which career path is right for you.

5. “They’ll have better business skills…”

John Hand writes: “I understood the sound business principles behind asking ‘Is that a large?’ or ‘Do you want fries with that?’, so didn’t feel at all self-conscious about chanting the then-obligatory mantras at every customer.”

You’ll learn about the notion of customer service. After all, you’ll probably be in the firing line. And that’s a good thing. And you’ll observe how your manager and organisation run the business. Watch carefully and ask appropriate questions. You’ll probably learn about business theory more from doing the work than merely reading a text book.

By taking a low-paid menial job, you’ll need to throw away the cynicism, and scoff down some humble pie. No one said it would be easy. But with the right support, a McJob could be the best professional foundation available.

A free Innovate CV can help you get the job you always wanted. Find out how we can help you with your job search!



Categories: Articles for Job Seekers, Current Affairs, Education and Training, General Career Advice


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4 Comments on “Why Your McJob Could be the Smartest Career Move You’ll ever Make”

  1. December 7, 2010 at 2:39 pm #


    Interesting and indeed thought provoking piece and i’ll add my 10 cents.

    I couldn’t help think back to an article that I read only a few weeks ago around McDonald’s and their launching of a degree course in Business Management for restaurant managers. Of course, the article implies that would need to do your ‘time’ at the company before being offered such an opportunity and in no way suggests it would be available to all straight away.

    What is particularly interesting however, is that in these time of increasing austerity – take the backlash from the proposed rise in tuition fees for example, it really may be prudent to consider other career options.

    As I see it, McDonald’s is not only offering a useful degree, but, is putting their employees through it without requiring tuition fees. Rebranding McDonald’s over the past few years has not only about changing the perception of the food they sell, about the way they sell it (aka the ‘experience’), but, it seems about how they want to be viewed in terms of developing and upskilling their people.

    Smart stuff and food for thought indeed….

  2. December 8, 2010 at 6:32 pm #

    Thanks for your comment, Matt! Thanks for stopping by the blog.

    McDonalds have a major problem – they have a significant turnover rate: 25,000 per year. When you couple that with a significant £15m annuel investment in training, any innovations that increase retention would seemingly help significantly.

    Their ‘McUniversity’ concept is a major win-win. Yet, some careful research is needed to determine just how broad the appeal would be.

    Could you imagine if it catches on? Who could imagine what the domino affect would be both corporate and higher-education sectors.

  3. Jeanne Little CPBA
    December 30, 2010 at 6:04 am #

    As a careers consultant, I would most certainly recommend young people secure a McJob during high-school and college. Besides the benefits listed in the (great) post, there is also an postive impact on one’s self-esteem that is derived from ‘doing’ rather than just ‘sitting’.

  4. January 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    Thanks for your comment, Jeanne. Fascinating point!

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