As soon as I finished high school I moved to Coral Springs, Florida for a change in scenery. Living in Baltimore most of my life, I welcomed the ocean and warm air. I went to an all-girls Catholic High School. Between school and team sports all year long I didn’t have the chance to have a real job till I graduated. In 2 weeks, I got my first car, moved out on my own, and started my first semester in college. For the first time in my life, it was time to find a job.
I was nervous, to say the least, but I swallowed the nerves and walked inside the first store I saw with a For Hire sign. It was an Einstein Bagels, I’d never even heard of it before but I knew I liked bagels. How hard could it be? I walked up to the register and asked to see their manager. This was when I met my very first boss, Abdul. He was Bangladeshi, with a long beard and a huge smile I’ll never forget. I greeted him with a smile, introduced myself, and told him I was interested in the job. To be honest, I don’t remember what he asked me in the 5-minute interview process but I must’ve impressed him because he asked me to come back the next day to train for their opening shift. I was ecstatic! My first day out job hunting and I’d already landed a job!
Hitting the ground running
As requested, I was there bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6:00 in the morning the next day. Little did I know, I was about to run around for the next 6 hours getting people their breakfast and coffee. I began my training by shadowing a team member who had been there for a long time already. Setting up teas, coffees, and making sure all supplies were stocked, we moved to order taking. At this point, Einsteins didn’t have a computer system where you could just insert the order and have it pop up on the screen in the back. This was an old school style: pen to carbon copy paper. We gave one order sheet to the customer to take to the register and the other for the cook in the back. With at least 100 orders during the morning rush; from 6:00 in the morning to about noon is organized chaos at its finest.
Through mastering order taking, I learned the ingredients of all the sandwiches, how to make them properly, and most importantly communicating with the guests about their needs. During the slow hours, I took it upon myself to learn how to prepare every sandwich on the menu which gave me all the practice I needed to eventually move into the food preparation role. Within a month I reached that point, and I loved it. I would zone in and diligently make sandwiches all morning while the organized chaos swirled around me.
Moving on up
I started taking on more responsibility as I learned the ropes and gained self-confidence in the process. I got to know the regulars on a personal level during slow hours and memorized all their unique orders. They went from “who’s the new girl?” to “can you please make sure Lhia makes my sandwich?” I was proud of that. My managers quickly took notice and soon after my third month on the job a spot was opening up for shift lead. Abdul asked me if I’d like to take part in the training process to become a shift manager. Before he could finish his sentence I had already agreed.
In my training, I shadowed the shift manager for a week to learn the ropes. I learned how to set up the register for the morning shifts and how to count the money and document everything accordingly for end of day shifts. I learned how to keep records of all products and merchandise for the next week’s orders. By showing interest in learning everything in the beginning I realized I already knew most of what it entailed to open and close the cafe. My job now was to delegate.
I had always been a team captain in all the sports I played and I figured this was no different. I’d be working within a team and leading it, but this dynamic was distinct in a lot of ways. I was in charge of holding team members accountable for being late and making sure everyone did their job accurately. Meanwhile, I had to maintain positive team morale to create a fun but productive and effective working environment. By the end of the week, I was managing a 5 person crew to run my first closing shift. I was nervous to be in charge of a whole crew and responsible for thousands of dollars in cash but it went off without a hitch! We got the store cleaned, stocked and I finished my other duties with enough time to help the crew put the final touches on the cleanup. I got a call from Abdul the next day, raving about the cleanliness and how everything had been set up perfectly for the morning crew.
New role, new responsibilities
In addition to running a crew and managing the registers, the responsibilities were endless. I helped set up the schedule for the entire store, ran weekly store deep cleanings, and trained new crew members. I stepped out of my comfort zone and learned how to approach my employees encouragingly but firmly with new tasks and duties. Trying to proactively perfect the schedule I reached out to my friend, who previously held my position, and asked for any tips or suggestions in the setup. I helped rearrange the schedule to better allocate employees during busy hours and also created better scheduling to help on Sunday evenings when the product truck came.
In hindsight, it was a lot of responsibility for my first job ever but it gave me the confidence I needed to know I was competent enough to try new things and succeed. It also built a great work ethic from the start which helped me stay on track and focused on my future jobs. Learning the fundamentals from the ground up, with a team willing to invest their time and effort cultivated my interest in the service industry and proved to myself that I have what it takes to flourish in any environment.