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YWCA Saskatoon Employment Tip of the Week


Employment & Learning

How the Minimum Wage Job Can Lead to Future Wealth

By Peter Harris

If you are relatively new to the job market not working this summer, and you can land a job flipping burgers or manning the drive-thru window, take it. People sometimes look down on minimum wage jobs as beneath them, or as a dead-end. Employers often have trouble actually filling those positions.

Just last month Statistics Canada reported that there were fewer people in Alberta working in part-jobs in June, with the declines largely in the hospitality sector. However, online job ads for opportunities in this field are actually up by over 40% year-over-year. This leads us to believe that the jobs actually exist, but employers are not able to find the people they need to fill them.

Well, it turns out that fast food and other service industry jobs can actually be the jumping off point for future career success, and people who work them end up earning higher wages later than people who did not.

A study out of the University of British Columbia showed how young people who work in the fast-food industry and hold down part-time jobs while studying end up being more successful in their careers than their peers who did not work.

For this study, “Beneficial ‘Child Labour’: The impact of adolescent work on future professional outcomes,” the researchers used data from Statistics Canada’s Youth in Transition Survey that followed the work history of nearly 250,000 young Canadians over a 10-year period from age 15 to 25.

This research showed that teens who held down part-time jobs achieve much greater career success because their earlier work experience allowed them to hone their job searching abilities and develop on-the-job soft skills. It also made getting hired for subsequent jobs easier by giving them professional references and kick-starting their broader career networks. Those young people who worked also developed a better sense of where they wanted their careers to take them in the long term, and made more focused decisions.

“Parents may think that their kids could do better than a job at the local fast food joint,” said study co-author, Dr. Marc-David L. Seidel, “but our study shows even flipping burgers has value – particularly if it leads to part-time work later during school term.”

Having to juggle work and school further helps young people to develop their time management skills and learn to effectively budget their time and energy.

One of the biggest lessons that people need to learn on the job is that we are all in customer service. Whether you are in a directly public-facing role or not, if you are paid to do a job, then someone is expecting results from you, and that person is your customer.

Being successful in a customer-facing role can be the secret to career success. The valuable skills practiced in that role are essential to managing working relationships, leading teams and acing job interviews.

Five transferable skills from customer service training that lead to career success:

  1. Remembering to smile and keep interactions positive. Act like you are happy to help out with whatever is asked of you. An up-beat attitude and good work ethic go along way with employers.
  2. Maintaining eye-contact and effective non-verbal communications. Both in job interviews and on the job, being a pleasant and polished communicator are vital for success.
  3. Practicing active listening and conveying empathy. The ability to really listen to another person is an often overlooked skill in this busy era where everyone is rushing to weigh-in with their opinion. Listen and understand what the other person is saying, rather than thinking up what you would like to say next while they are talking.
  4. Speaking from a prepared script without sounding robotic or rehearsed. Telling your accomplishments in a job interview, or making your “elevator pitch” in a meeting should all sound friendly and conversational, but you should still practice and prepare them in advance.
  5. Being able to think on your feet and problem-solve in unpredictable situations. When your job is dealing with the public, you are going to meet all sorts of people in a variety of (often-challenging) scenarios. While some of these will be unpleasant at the time, the ability you hone to deal with the unexpected and resolve customer issues on-the-fly will benefit you throughout your career.

So don’t look down at that minimum wage job. If that is the only role available right now, take it and do it well. All career growth comes from showing up, making positive impressions, learning on-the-job and building your network.