I recently met Geoff Goodman, president of Orange Leaf Yogurt. He oversees 300 frozen yogurt stores all over the country. Orange Leaf was founded in 2008 and now employs thousands of young team members across America. The majority of them are high school or college students…much like the ones you see each day.
What makes Geoff different is his perspective on leading young team members who may not stay at one of his frozen yogurt stores for long. Instead of debating about how they can retain employees longer—he’s chosen the mantra: “America’s Best First Job.” Geoff is working with his franchisees to make Orange Leaf a “launching pad” for kids to start their careers. While at a store, they’ll learn customer service, profit and loss, resume writing and anything else they’re interested in learning about doing business well. Interestingly, Geoff said this mindset often has a reverse effect. When employers invest in young team members—those kids often stay.
What a great way to embrace the challenge: “America’s Best First Job.”
What’s the Best Job to Get Ready for a Career?
I interviewed Geoff for an upcoming podcast, and he got me thinking about the kind of jobs that would be optimal for a student this summer. I reflected on the jobs I had growing up, and which ones best prepared me for my career. While the industries may vary, I recommend you help your students identify a job that fits into some of the follow descriptors:
- Something that’s in the service industry.
While middle class teens frequently avoid quick-service restaurants or other service industries—I believe a job that involves direct customer service is one of the best ways to get ready for life and career. Learning to serve people who are often demanding or have bad attitudes is an incredible foundation for any career. Serving such customers with a smile is almost priceless. When I hire young professionals, I’ve always had better experiences with those who’ve waited tables at restaurants or volunteered in unpleasant contexts.
- Something that requires patience and tenacity.
Another great “career workout” is taking a job that actually requires students to have patience, resolve and stamina. Call it old-fashioned grit. Affluent or middle class kids usually don’t pursue these kinds of jobs. Consider this, however. In a world where almost everything we want is ours with a quick click, it’s desirable to develop the ability to wait and work at something over time. I love a kid who’ll jump on a job that’s a “crock pot”—not a “microwave.”
- Something that requires hands-on labor and sweat.
Ponder for a moment how jobs have evolved. For thousands of years, we’ve used muscles to get our work done. Then for 300 years, we’ve primarily used machines to get our work done. Today, most of us use our minds to get work done. It’s all we want to do. While I agree—their career will likely center on their brains—getting ready with a job requiring manual labor (like mowing lawns) was an incredible preparation for me. It’s like a track athlete using ankle weights in practice, so when they compete, their legs feel light.
- Something that includes a task outside their comfort zone.
When a recently minted college grad enters their career, there will be plenty of tasks they’ll be asked to do that are outside of their comfort zone. Now is the time to get used to it. I am not suggesting they take a job that’s out of their “gift zone” (as that’s important for them to develop), but one that’s far from their comfort zone, that pushes them to learn. It’s been said for years, but it’s still true: there’s no growth in the comfort zone, but there’s no comfort in the growth zone. Just like a rubber band, I grow and am most useful when I am stretched.
- Something that does not revolve around screens and technology.
I recommend this because screens and technology today are ubiquitous. I have no doubt any student looking for a job has mastered the art of the screen. Consequently, however, as a generation their levels of emotional intelligence are low. We don’t build our EQ on a screen. We do it when we’re interacting with real people and learning to read body language and tone. I am grateful to have worked at two fast-food cafés, an ice cream store and as a cook in a country club, where face-to-face people skills ruled the day.
- Something that exposes them to older and younger generations.
Finally, I believe it’s wise to pursue a job that places a student in the midst of multiple generations, where they not only deepen their social intelligence, but their understanding of varying perspectives and values. This will enable them to understand culture and worldviews more completely. It’s almost like travel—you get an education just interfacing with folks who are different. The job may not appear to be the most “fun” at first, but it will probably be the most satisfying in the long run.
I encourage you to help your young find jobs that prepare them for a great future.