During my senior year in high school, it became glaringly evident that my need for hip huggers and puka shells exceeded my parents’ willingness to underwrite my wardrobe.
It was clear that I needed a job.
One crisp autumn day, I walked into the fast food restaurant closest to school — a Roy Rogers, then owned by Marriott — and asked if they were hiring. I imagine I was wearing jeans with huge bell bottoms. I may have had a plaid shirt on. I was likely wearing either desert boots or Famolare Wave Sole shoes.
I was totally rocking the fashion. Which is why I was looking for a job in the first place.
The manager, a woebegone man who’d seen many a late night and too few an early morning, looked me over, head to toe, and wearily asked,”What do you do over at the high school?”
“Well,” I chirped. “I’m President of the Student Union, on the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee, in the ski club, in the drama club, and I’ve applied for early admission to Virginia Tech.”
I was hired on the spot, and given a schedule and a uniform.
Roy Rogers was a Western-themed fast food restaurant, so my uniform consisted of a calico skirt, a white peasant-type blouse and a red and white cowboy hat.
Which totally offended my fashion sensibilities. And since the restaurant was across the street from my high school, I was continually embarrassed to be seen by classmates who came in for a tasty Double-R-Bar burger.
But Marriott offered a terrific training program. Believe it or not, I use what I learned then every single day.
- I rotate my stock — when I go to the grocery store, the new can of diced tomatoes goes behind the old so I’m always using the oldest stuff first.
- I know when to flip — my hamburgers come out medium every time.
- I know how to listen to customers and what they want.
And I know how to do suggestive selling. Which is when you ask, “Would you like fries with that?” or, since our Roy Rogers fries came in particular packaging, “Would you like a ‘holster’ of fries?” [Yes, the large fries were served in a cardboard gun holster. What can I say? It was a different time.]
I mention suggestive selling for a reason.
News reports out this week indicate that the real U.S. unemployment rate stands at 17.5 percent:
In all, more than one out of every six workers — 17.5 percent — were unemployed or underemployed in October. The previous recorded high was 17.1 percent, in December 1982.
This includes the officially unemployed, who have looked for work in the last four weeks. It also includes discouraged workers, who have looked in the past year, as well as millions of part-time workers who want to be working full time. (New York Times, Nov. 6, 2009)
If you are out of a job, now is the time to do some suggestive selling.
In a regular economy, 70% of job openings are not even advertised and are filled by personal referral. In my experience, right now it seems that about 90% of jobs are filled that way — because if an organization can only hire one person, they want a sure thing. A personal referral from someone who knows you and has worked with you is testimony that you’re smart, sharp and can do the work. With a meaningful personal referral, you will get you the interview, and probably the position.
To get the referral, you have to suggestively sell your contacts. You have to tell them what you want and how you can solve the pain of an employer. Because all job hires are made because someone, somewhere is in pain. There’s the pain of work overload, there’s the pain of work not getting done, there’s the pain of opportunities missed.
There’s always pain. Identify it, sell how you can solve it, and you will rise to the top of the list.
If you’re working part-time, it’s even more important to suggestively sell. Saying things like, “I noticed that XYZ is not getting done. I’d be happy to do it,” is the perfect way to move into a full-time slot.
And remember. Every job in your past has contributed to the skill set you have now. Play up all of your talents to sell yourself. Just because you had a certain job title in your last position doesn’t mean you are limited to only that kind of work. I’ll bet there are a lot of things you can do. Even though I’m no longer “Pardner Of The Month” (March, 1978), I could walk in any fast food joint today and make a credible hamburger.
And know how to ask, as I was trained, “Would you like fries with that?”