Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs.”
~ Malcolm S. Forbes
(Please note that I’m interrupting my series on dining etiquette
for a few weeks to focus on the topic of summer job etiquette.)
Sticking to one’s job in a positive and productive way is the key to making progress. And, speaking of making progress, the U.S. is seeing some of the strongest summer employment numbers for teenagers since the 2007 discovery that the world was in the midst of the largest disaster since 1929. These figures might also include summer internships, which differ from the time-honored summer I-need-to-earn-some-money job; but still the job picture is improving. If you’re among the lucky teenagers, as well as college students, to have summer employment, this entry is for you!
Summer jobs are excellent training grounds that can prepare a student for important internships that most colleges require to graduate, and which frequently lead to permanent positions after graduation from college or trade school. But desirable internships are becoming more difficult to obtain because of the increasingly competitive marketplace. Therefore, it pays to be as prepared as possible to land the internship you want, and summer job experience can help.
To make the most of your summer job–whether it’s at your local Starbucks, CVS, or other retail establishment in the city or suburbs–and to ensure success in working in a retail position and dealing with your boss, coworkers and, most important, customers, following is a formula for success:
- Smile. This is your No.1 secret weapon to make an outstanding first impression and build relationships. Greeting customers and coworkers with a smile makes them feel good about you and themselves. And, remember to keep flashing those smiles throughout the transaction!
- Make eye contact with the person you’re speaking or working with or waiting on. It makes an essential connection that says, “you are important and I care about what you have to say to me.”
- Stay focused on the customer when she is speaking to you, whether giving her order or asking a question. Don’t let your eyes stray from her face or allow yourself to become distracted until you have finished taking her order (unless there is a fire or your boss is calling you).
- Be punctual and aim for a perfect attendance record. Film actor, director and producer Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Play It Again, Sam and the upcoming Blue Jasmine) said, “80 percent of success is just showing up.” For local small business owners, dependability is their number one concern. Show up on time, practice ethical behavior and make your employer very glad she hired you.
- Maintain a clean, neat appearance and practice good grooming. Whether you wear a uniform or your own clothes, dress appropriately and neatly. Be sure that all your clothing, including uniform, are freshly laundered and pressed each day that you report to work. Wear closed-toe shoes to work, as they look more professional. And, no matter what is going on in your private and social lives, be sure to leave time for showering, styling hair, using deodorant, brushing teeth, manicuring nails, and lightly applying makeup and fragrance. These guidelines apply to both genders!
- Wear a clean hairnet or company-issued hat and wear plastic gloves to comply with health codes, store policy and as a courtesy to the customer to keep your hair and germs off the food that you are around or handle. Put on a clean pair of gloves each time you touch any part of your body or a surface; touching food with a dirty plastic glove is a huge no-no.
- Learn to juggle multiple transactions. When you are behind the counter at a fast food or short order establishment you’ll be waiting on multiple customers simultaneously and handling orders that are in various stages of completion. Become adept at orchestrating several orders and dealing with the other staff that are making them for you. Practice efficiency without losing focus on your customers. And, always be pleasant.
- Handle interruptions gracefully and smoothly. When serving a customer behind the counter, you might be distracted by coworkers asking you a question or bumping into you, as well as other customers calling out to you to help them. Always be gracious and never show annoyance. It’s important to maintain good relationships with your coworkers as well as your customers. At some point, you might require assistance and need to interrupt a coworker who is waiting on another customer. When this occurs, always smile at the customer and say, “excuse me,”
- Say “thank you” to the customer as you hand over her order and her change and receipt. Failing to thank her could undo all the good you’ve done so far.
- Keep your work area clean. Don’t expect your coworkers or, worse, your boss, to have to clean up after you unless it’s an emergency.
- Do your very best with even with seemingly small, insignificant tasks. Retail establishments require attention to the smallest details. Whatever your assignment, whether it’s sweeping the floors, wiping off counters and tables, changing signs or taking out the trash, do a top-notch job. You will be noticed; and once you’ve gained the attention and respect of the owner/manager, you’ll be in a good position to advance. And, once you’ve established a relationship with a local business, you’ll most likely have a job source to fall back on when needed.
- Step up to help with extras. In any job, there often crops up little extra tasks that either fall under everyone’s or no one’s job description. When and if this occurs during your summer job, be a sport and extend yourself. In some way, shape or form, you’ll receive a return on your investment by going the extra mile.
A final thought: Customer reviews have become very popular and so easy to submit. Larger, well-known, stores provide their customers with opportunities to review their employees’ performances – from store managers on down – on their own websites or toll-free telephone numbers. In addition, customers can review retail and other businesses, medical practices, etc., on websites such as Yelp, healthgrades and Angie’s List. Depending on the type of retail establishment that employs you, you may either see a customer once or frequently. You should expect that your performance will be noticed and recorded by word of mouth, online, in the local newspapers or on the local cable news channel.
To ensure your summer job success, follow the above formula and outperform continuously!
Next week, my entry will address supermarket jobs. Meanwhile, stay cool!
Until next time,