Yep, everyone should experience working a minimum wage job.
This may seem like pretty counter intuitive advice – aren’t skills, experience and exploration the priority? How would a minimum wage job be helpful? Read on below… 😏
Minimum wage jobs are actually supposed to be part of your career path. When you’re a student or a young adult, a minimum wage job is designed to give you some experience and skills to start with. The entry level is pretty low and although you won’t make much, you’ll be gaining experience.
So, if you have the choice to work a minimum wage job or not, sometimes choosing to pick the job can bring you some pretty unexpected benefits.
Personally, I worked 5 minimum wage jobs (partly out of necessity, partly out of wanting to work), and although they weren’t exactly enjoyable, I did learn a lot and would not wish otherwise. Here are a few reasons why I think it’s something everyone should experience a MW job… 💸
You get a taste of the world
If all you’ve known is school, friends and family, a minimum wage job is an easy way to get a bit of a taste of what the real world is like. That strangers can be extremely nice, and extremely rude, and that really you’re not as important or special as you thought you were.
Similar to travelling, working a minimum wage job forces you out of your little bubble. You meet people who you pity, you meet people you dislike and you meet people who surprise you with their kindness.
I got an interesting taste of the world while working a minimum wage job as security/ticket checker/assistant in a museum (Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona): tourists. People from all corners of the world, sometimes nice, sometimes rude, most times annoying. It can disgust you, but if you look carefully, it can restore your faith in humanity too.
You build social skills
There’s no better way to build social skills than getting a job in customer service. I was shy, awkward and unsure what to do with people. I decided to throw myself out there and get a job as a party promoter, guiding young tourists to go partying in the clubs of Barcelona. My shyness disappeared quickly when I was regularly managing 30 drunk people through the city streets. I had to become friends with everyone and then get people in the mood to go partying. My social skills rocketed 📈
Talking with strangers forces you to learn how to make small talk (which is a skill) and it teaches how to make friends with people you’ve never known before. You also learn the questions you need to ask when meeting someone new, you learn what people enjoy talking about (hint: themselves). A job such as promoter (which was even below minimum wage 🙄) and charity fundraiser (those annoying people on the streets), force you to interact with strangers and deal with rejection. You also learn how to deal with difficult clients in a professional way – that’s patience right there.
You are humbled
As mentioned before, getting a minimum wage job helps you realise that you’re not as important as you thought you were. This is not a negative thing, it simply puts your feet on the ground, brings you down to Earth and makes sure your ego doesn’t get too big.
You also learn what it’s like to do the things no one else really wants to do, and to do it with a smile on your face. It also means you’ll never be one of those clients who disrespect and are rude to bartenders/waiters/other similar jobs.
I hated working as a waitress (more because of the toxic atmosphere, not the job itself), but it means I now empathise with waitresses. I hated repeating ‘The bathroom is through the door on the right’ to hundreds of tourists, but by doing it with a smile and putting myself in their shoes, I realised they were not doing it to annoy the assistants (I’m quite sure).
You do build experience + skills
Minimum wage jobs won’t only teach you about empathy and humbleness, they can also teach you amazing skills and invaluable lessons. If you’re clever about it, you can pick a minimum wage job that will also look great on your CV, and build you some essential career capital for the future.
An example is teaching, or tutoring. I was teaching English to Spanish kids as a kind of side hustle, and it taught me some essentials lessons on education – why it’s important to learn how to learn, what methods work best when learning a language, and much more.
You may learn more skills and experience earning minimum wage as an office administrator or assistant than in a call centre, for example. For this reason it can pay off to be clever about which kind of job to take. 👌
On the upside, if you get a job that you hate and dislike, you will learn the following:
To never get another sh*tty minimum wage job again in your life
And that is probably the most important lesson of them all.
If you get a minimum wage job, not only does it humble you and put your life into perspective, but you also make sure you won’t have to work these jobs again. Yes they’re fine when you’re young, but working a minimum wage job you dislike later in your life can really suck. You vow to work hard, build the right skills, work with the right companies and build a life for yourself, anything to not take that minimum wage job again.
I’ve learnt a lot doing the minimum wage jobs I did. It helped me build character, maturity and social skills. Now I can talk with customers with ease, I can manage co workers and most of all, I can manage drunk people on the streets (essential skill 😛).
So, contrary to other career advice, I think you should add a minimum wage job into your career path. The best way to look for a minimum wage job that will help you is to ask yourself ‘What is a soft skill I wish I was better at?‘, and then look for a job that will force you to build it. If it’s rejection, do some fundraising, if it’s people management do something like security, if it’s social anxiety do waitering or any customer service job. And if you have a strategy behind your MW job, it won’t hate it as much 😉.