I went to McDonalds the other night. I don’t remember the last time I did but it was likely also with my parents. We were on Sunset, in West Hollywood. Just like a child I stood next to my parents waiting on our Big Macs and my mother’s tailor-made cheeseburger – no pickles, no sauce. While we waited I watched the crew go about their work. And I thought about my work.
It reminded me of being a kid working part-time at KFC. I worked there a number of years, cooking chicken and serving customers. Truth be told, it was one of my most fun jobs. I learned many of my career principles from my part-time jobs, and it was KFC that taught me some of my most important. Standing at the counter with my parents, on my blackberry I started to type – My top 5 lessons from KFC to Goldman Sachs.
- Always take the shift. At KFC I always took the extra shift. It gave me more money and it made me more reliable, which gave me more options. At Goldman it was about shifts and deals. Early in my career I always took the extra deal and worked the extra shift, the graveyard shift.
- Be your best. Lil’ Wayne says, “be good or be good at it.” If you’re cooking chicken or working on Wall Street do it well. Putting more in means getting more out. This attitude will leak into every area of your life.
- Clean as you go. At KFC it took 14 minutes to deep fry chicken. That mean’t you had 14 minutes to clean the kitchen before the chicken was cooked. On Wall Street you don’t go back and do it later. There’ll be something else to do later.
- Multi-tasking. In a kitchen you are doing many things at the same time. It means being thoughtful about planning and sequencing of tasks and being focused enough to simultaneously do many things well. This is multi-tasking; it’s a life skill. Driving and typing on a blackberry is not; it’s a death skill.
- Rotate jobs. No mechanic wants to only be able to change a tire. Rotating stations at KFC improved my experience and gave me more “career” options. I did the same at Goldman – four jobs and offices in eight years. It gave me more experience and options along the way and once I left.