Would you like skills with that?
What’s the most important thing to get out of your first job? A paycheck, sure. But wouldn’t it be even better if, at the same time, you could get the job skills that will launch your future career?
Many people who are looking for a first job in our region are more focused on getting a little extra spending money than on getting the skills that will help them for years to come. But when your first job is at McDonald’s, you get both.
Working at McDonald’s in D.C., Maryland or Virginia is ideal for those who are new to the workforce. It’s not just because of the flexible schedule, many nearby locations and training programs. Working at a DMV McDonald’s is a hands-on way to learn skills you’ll need in any future career path. You learn teamwork—how to work efficiently with your peers and solve problems as a group. You learn the people skills to keep customers happy, even the difficult ones. You learn how to work in an organizational atmosphere—what it means to punch a clock and have taxes taken out of your paycheck. Most of all, you learn what it means to be accountable, to your co-workers, your managers, your customers and yourself.
In too many cases to count, a job at McDonald’s has been the launching pad for a great career, in many cases a career in the D.C. area. News anchor Katie Couric’s first job was at a McDonald’s right here in Virginia. Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon and The Washington Post, also had his first job at McDonald’s.
Sometimes a job at McDonald’s is the start of a history-making career. That’s how it happened for Henry “Hank” Thomas in 1966, who was recuperating from a Vietnam War wound at Walter Reed Army Medical Center when he walked into a McDonald’s on Georgia Avenue in Washington, D.C. Before he was drafted, Thomas had been a Howard University student and a major part of the student Civil Rights movement. His job at McDonald’s in D.C. gave him a role model in the form of the restaurant’s manager, who was also black. “That fascinated me, coming out of the culture of the South where black folks weren’t in charge of anything,” he says in the book Golden Opportunity: Remarkable Careers that Began at McDonald’s. “He took the time to talk to me and showed me as much as I wanted to learn.” For Thomas, that D.C. McDonald’s didn’t just offer a job when he needed one, it offered a vision of career success he hadn’t been able to visualize before. Today, Thomas is a McDonald’s owner/operator who has owned as many as six McDonald’s in his native Georgia.
“That fascinated me, coming out of the culture of the South where black folks weren’t in charge of anything.”
– Henry “Hank” Thomas, civil rights activist and entrepreneur
McDonald’s restaurants in the DMV also give young people a chance to work for a major national business while still staying close to home, serving our local community and working on a small team. In fact, young employees often get personalized attention and mentoring. When Diana Thomas walked into a McDonald’s in nearby Jessup, Md., in 1979, she was sixteen and too nervous to talk to customers. Her supervisor noticed, and asked Diana to start leading the kids’ birthday parties that the restaurants hosted. “That’s how I found my footing,” she says. “Then I wanted to learn everything and discovered that McDonald’s wanted to teach me everything.” After college, Thomas returned to our area when she landed an internship at the regional office in Washington, D.C. Today, she’s the dean of Hamburger University, McDonald’s global training center in Oak Brook, Ill.
“I wanted to learn everything and discovered that McDonald’s wanted to teach me everything.”
-Diana Thomas, executive coach
McDonald’s also gives young people an opportunity to take on more responsibility than many other jobs do. Today, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) makes decisions in Washington on Capitol Hill, but her first experience with making tough decisions came at a McDonald’s in Cleveland when she was seventeen. She’d been working there more than a year by then, and had been given more responsibility. She’d run the store when managers were unavailable and remembers having to decide whether to send home employees who misbehaved, an experience she thinks about today when managi
ng employees. “When I think about it now, I realize how significant it was to give a teenage girl like me so much responsibility,” she says.
“When I think about it now, I realize how significant it was to give a teenage girl like me so much responsibility.”
-Marcia Fudge, U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 11th congressional district
These are just some of the lessons that young people learn at McDonald’s restaurants in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Today, McDonald’s offers more formal training programs for employees, including a free program to help employees finish high school, tuition assistance for those going to college, and English classes for speakers of other languages. The education opportunities are ways for McDonald’s to continue to attract bright and ambitious young people. For generations of Americans, McDonald’s has been a launching pad to the working world, and it remains committed to being America’s best first job.