From Restaurant to RPO – Valuable lessons learned from The Old Place
I have written in other posts about growing up in the small town of Ironton, Ohio, where the population is only around 11,000 but the people are one of a kind. Jobs are often hard to come by and as I made my way through high school and college, I worried about the lack of internship opportunities that mostly exist in more populated regions.
At 15 years old, I started working as a hostess in a family owned restaurant in my hometown called C.R. Thomas’ Old Place. The C and R stood for brothers Charles “Chuck” and Robert “Bobby” and they also had five other siblings that were part of the business as well. From the ages of 15-22, I would be part of this restaurant, working on weekends and holiday/summer breaks from college and during that time, I would learn some valuable lessons about life and business.
How I got started there is kind of a funny story. As I mentioned, jobs in Ironton are hard to come by, so this restaurant never had any shortage of applications and people seeking employment. I went in to pick up a “to go” order for my friend and I, who had driven us there since I didn’t even have my license yet (shout out to Iris Devine for always driving me around). When I went inside, things seemed a little disorganized and I was told via an apology for my wait that their hostess hadn’t shown up for work that day. I went back out to the car with the food in tow, and asked my friend to drive me around to the employee entrance of the building. Upon finding out the mother of the Thomas Family and operation, Dottie Thomas, and her son Bobby, I blurted out, “I hear your hostess didn’t show up for work today and I want her job.” Much to my delight, I was handed an official t-shirt, and the rest is a piece of my employment history.
I would eventually graduate high school, as well as graduating into a waitress position, now that I was legally able to fulfill that role. Over the years, I would also fill in for the kitchen staff if someone called in sick. I mostly stuck with salads because let’s face it, that is where I could do least harm, and even jumped in once when the dishwasher walked off the job because no one was going to make any money that night if we didn’t have clean dishes to serve the food on. I have rolled more silverware than I can even close my eyes and count and I do know how to move chairs and tables around and vacuum at lightning speed when it was time to close at night.
You may be wondering what all of this experience has to do with the business world and my last 14 years in Recruiting, most specifically RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing). Well, here is what I can share with you in terms of skill sets that translate in a pretty phenomenal way.
Ability to multi-task
I believe having the ability to multi task is critical in almost any job. You have to be able to juggle conflicting priorities, manage your time well against delivery dates, and convey the ability to make it happen, even when timeframes are tight. In a restaurant environment, as a server, I knew that when I emerged from a trip back to the kitchen that I would have 5-6 tables staring at me for something… someone is waiting for food, someone needs refills, someone wants ketchup, etc. Regardless of what they needed, it was on me to make it happen. I couldn’t tell them that I was too busy or that table #2 was more important, just like I can’t ever let one of my clients or my staff feel like their business needs are any less important than a task or deadline I have on my plate for someone else. Learning how to juggle multiple tables at once taught me how to do this well into my career when those tables turned into valuable RPO customers and/or employees.
Just because I can’t really seem to blog without a sports reference, I will insert a good one here. I believe Woody Hayes said it best, “You win with People.” A restaurant environment is all about a team of people who have to rely on others to get the job done. That is the same way we operate within RPO at Yoh. If you believe that you are above or below something, then this is not the company or the business line you should be a part of. Take the time to do your share so that you contribute to the “greater good”, whatever that may be in your business or your personal life. I have seen it work in the restaurant, as well as a corporate work environment. When people work together, and believe in the mission…great things will happen.
Dealing with difficult people
I can clearly recall a customer who paid with 100.00 bill and tipped me about 75 cents. I remember being so frustrated because I had tried so hard to give them stellar service, and regardless, the outcome wasn’t something I thought was fair. I have had diners yell at me loudly when their food was prepared in a way they didn’t care for, and even though I hadn’t prepared it myself, I had to be the one to accept the feedback and try to better the situation myself. I learned from the restaurant how to accept constructive criticism and how to use various ways to resolve conflict. Those skills have been used in every job I have held since my waitress days and I don’t foresee that ever not being important in my role. You have to learn how to work well with others, show respect to garner respect, and work through issues that prevent goals from being accomplished.
There are certainly more that I could list, but I believe the point has likely been made.
While I may not have had a prestigious internship to put on my resume like some that I have worked with in my career or have hired to be on my team today, I wouldn’t trade the work experience, true life and business lessons that I got from the Thomas family and my time spent working for them for anything in this world. Sadly, the restaurant would eventually close and the Thomas family would move on to other ventures, however still today would consider that time some of the best of my life. The further I have progressed in my career, the more apparent the parallels have become about what that experience truly taught me. I likely wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t lived and learned so much from those days at the Old Place and I am happy to always tell the story above when asked how I got my start.
So, for those of you that share a career similar to mine and look at resumes often deciding who is the best person for a role in one of your client’s organizations, or even for your own team, take the time to think about what I have shared above. When you see the restaurant experience on a resume, don’t count that person out. They might just surprise you.