Lessons From the Graveyard Shift What Jack in the Box Taught Me About Being a Lawyer
This time of year always makes me a bit nostalgic. When you’re a kid, summer is a big deal and you anticipate it for months, but once you hit adulthood, a lot of the magic goes out of the season. Still, I find myself reminiscing more when the weather gets hot. This month, I’ve been thinking back a lot to the very first summer job I had as a teenager: working the register at Jack in the Box. Is there anything more quintessentially American than schlepping fast food as a 16-year-old? I don’t think so! Of course, when I got hired, what I really wanted was to spend my shifts flipping burgers, but management stuck me on the register because I was the one guy who could count. It was fine, but I remember being annoyed that they wouldn’t let me cook — it sounded a lot more fun than what I was stuck doing. After I paid my dues, though, I did get to work the grill. That’s because all of a sudden my boss decided that at 16, I was responsible enough to work the graveyard shift, and on three of the five nights per week that I worked, I was the only guy in the place. It was a weird feeling being all alone in the restaurant as a kid, but they paid me an extra $1.50 per hour to work from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m., so I wasn’t complaining. When all of this was happening, I didn’t think about it as a formative life experience or look at my day-to-day grind as a learning opportunity. I was a kid focused on kid stuff. I liked to make myself a few burgers to chow down on when things were slow and play my favorite music really loud while I cleaned up the kitchen and moved boxes of meat and veggies around. Looking back, though, I did learn some valuable skills that summer.
The biggest thing I learned was how to approach and communicate with all kinds of people — customer service is hard in the middle of the night when rolling down the window feels a bit like playing Russian roulette. That ability to talk to anyone really stuck with me, and it’s a skill I still use today as a lawyer. Working alone at the restaurant also taught me how to manage my time. As I went on to other customer service jobs like waiting tables and working the register at a gas station (I wasn’t mechanical at all, so I ended up putting my counting skills to work again), that came in handy. Working as a waiter was another important experience for me. Even more than the Jack in the Box job, it taught me to work hard and be patient with people. Waiting tables was fun — I made good money and had a good
time — but as a waiter, you have to learn how to roll with your customers’ whims and do everything you can to deliver exactly what they want. I mastered that, and it has been a valuable skill ever since. It’s funny to think about, but I really never got out of the customer service business. Of course, as a personal injury lawyer, I have a lot more responsibility than I did working in fast food, but I’m still providing a service to my clients and working hard to make sure they get what they need. At my core, I’m the same hardworking guy I was at 16. Not much has changed over the decades, and I’m happy with that — I love the work I do!
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