Should I get a job at McDonalds?

Pizza Hut.  McDonalds.  Article Circle. Home Depot.

Are these places for me to work?  Should I go from general manager to “would you like fries with that?”

Before you get all upset and think I’m being an elitest, realize I’m writing this because it’s one of the biggest issues I hear about from professionals who become unemployed.  I’ll share my ideas, and I welcome your balancing perspectives.

Before I lost my job, I was quite a stereotyper.  I would look at an unemployed professional and say “I would do anything to pay my own way – get two jobs at McDonalds,” or whatever.  It’s really easy to say when it’s not you.  As I faced the issues of unemployed income (not coming in) vs. unemployed expense (still going out), I thought about McDonalds.  Here are three rationalizations for NOT taking this type of (temporary) job:

  1. Humility vs. Pride. Perhaps you could find a store that is not in your neighborhood, so you don’t have to serve Ms. Jones and her snotty kids (who whisper, all-to-loud, “what’s he doing here??”). It’s easy to say someone else needs to get over themselves and get the job at McDonald’s but when it’s you, with all your education, clout and self-importance, … it’s easy to justify why you shouldn’t.  It can probably be summed up in one word: pride.
  2. Actual income. If I worked 40 hours a week, at $6/hour, I would make about $1,000 a month.  Give me a break, this was a fraction of my previous income, and wouldn’t even cover my mortgage.  Even if I “need the money,” is this the only way I could earn money?  Perhaps I do need a temporary job (see below for another way of saying this), but I have to consider my expenses and find a job that can contribute significantly towards that.  Oh yeah, don’t forget taxes 🙂
  3. Harmful to the job search. Let’s be conservative and say I’m working 20 hours a week.  That 20 hours might preclude me from getting to job interviews, networking one-on-one, formal networking events, taking phone calls when they come in (“why yes, Ms. Hiring Manager, I’d love to come in tomorrow for an interview” vs. missing the call altogether), etc.

Those are three rationalizations.  Let’s look at it from another perspective.  When I went through a two-day job search workshop, they referred to this “temporary job” as a step job.  It is just a stepping-stone to get to where I was supposed to go.  A step job is what you get to keep the incoming coming in.

It is also helpful to keep you out of your house, networking, even keeping skills sharp or broadening your vision.  A step job can be helpful in many ways, and it doesn’t have to be at McDonalds.  Consider a step job as a job you occupy while you are looking for that right opportunity.

Perhaps YOU are in a step job right now (and didn’t realize it)!

There’s nothing wrong with that, just make sure that the step job doesn’t preclude you from getting the job you are shooting for.  I’ve thought about step jobs with nigh shifts, but knew I’d be a good-fer-nothing all day long (and grumpy, too)!

So what do you think?  McDonalds to low for you?  Does a step job make sense?

14 thoughts on “Should I get a job at McDonalds?”

  1. I would say take a step job and with in that job look for transferable skills that can compliment or enhance your skills. I worked in clients services and looked for the opportunity to train and improve process that I could link to my degree in Education.

    As long as you don’t lose focus on what you really want, it is not a bad idea. Just my opinion.

  2. McDonald’s as a Step job? Maybe for the discount and free childcare by hiding kids in the playland.

    Pizza delivery is a better Step job in my opinion – it can be viewed by many as that extra job people get to buy a flatscreen or get Christmas gifts, and is commission oriented with the tip money. If you show up at someone’s door, they won’t assume you been ‘reduced to delivering pizza’, particularly if you stick with evening hours.

    If networking is what you’re looking for, take any number of the commission-oriented jobs in the paper. They’re used to turnover.

    That’s a discussion in and of itself – is your step job to stop the bleeding, or to help you get your next job? As for me, I’d rather be broke than return to working at McDonald’s or Taco Bell or any of the places I worked as a kid. And occasionally am 😉

  3. Interesting question first I would ask if anyone has the film “American Beauty”? If not rent it, MacDonald’s is relevant.
    I just applied for a step job . I was ready to go when a policy changed and everyone had to do an online application which included Kronos Unicru personality test. I was redflagged on the personality test which means everything stops, the areas I flagged in customer service and something else I have a very good record including working under extremely diffcult conditions didn’t matter.
    I had met the GM and other people and I was set to go again we worked beyond it I’m in orientation and I’m told I have to take the test again. Which surprised everyone including me. So now I’m waiting to hear how this test went. I did find out people who had worked and reapplied jeaving good records had to do the test and were also flagged It was/is reaching finding anyone who could pass the test. I guess this is where part of the workplace is going human interaction does not count but psuedo science
    with no regulations makes the decisions. Personally I think magic 8 balls can do a better job.
    As for pride I’ve worked at non-profits for minimum wage as step throughs basically to keep my skills honed, learn what I could and often pass on what I’ve learned over the years. It is not always the quantity but the quality of this type of work. Sometimes I just volunteer but it is doing something and hopefully contributing and it is networking.
    As for paminimum wage it is still better than no bucks. The majority of jobs and wages in America have not had any increases in years in many in some instances there has been a drop. (with exceptions ).
    There is one other thing about step jobs we are losing them. Starbucks is cutting back and shutting down stores, restaurants individual and chain are closing, Home Depot is shutting down stores. As things cost more people have been cutting back, less consumables less business, less business…. The number of bankruptcies.

    Some interesting information ….. well maybe not that interesting but worth checking out

  4. I’d say it comes down to finances. If your unemployement is about to run out and you will go into debt (or you already have debt [mortgage, credit cards, car]) you are obligated to just take “any job”. Any money coming in – even if it’s not very much – is better than none. You can always look for a job while you have that step job.

  5. It totally depends on the situation. I have been there, but we will take it from an angle not “attached” to my career. My father in law has a bachelor’s degree from SUNY in NY. He is quite smart. He took a step through job at a local convenience store as the assistant manager in the village. We recently moved to this village from Tampa and I can tell you, there are 2000 residents and the nearest major city, Syracuse, is 106 miles away. The other day I introduced my father in law, now a mental health counselor for post-war soldiers, to my neighbor. My neighbor asked me after he left “isn’t he the clerk at the gas station?” I replied that he did work for a short time at the local gas station, in 2003.

    It totally depends on where you live, what you do, and how well and quickly you recover and gain entry into your previous or future profession. Personally, I know there is money to be made online and when I went through this that was the route I took. Is there anything wrong with working at McDonalds, absolutely not, but it’s not how you should be remembered. I caught a lot of slack for not just taking any job, but in this place I would rather be known as the guy who works from home that the guy who pumps my neighbors gas. Pride, yes, Right, no. As a professional and someone who makes six figures even in a bad year, you have to keep yourself at a certain level or you won’t be taken seriously later. Even step jobs can have a negative effect when you live in a small town. Now, change the city to Tampa, a town with millions. The chances of having to face your neighbor are significantly lower, but if you are a memorable person you still risk being known as the VP who took a job at Mickey D’s.

  6. There’s one thing you haven’t considered that’s actually a major factor here: Will McDonald’s hire you? and the answer is probably “no.” When I was out of work for an extended period I applied to all the major fast food chains, Blockbuster, 7-11, WalMart and a few others (Starbucks, of course, was the Holy Grail — Benefits for part-timers!) and was unanimously rejected with the age old statement that I was over qualified.

  7. Wow, this post is timely. I was let go about 4 months ago and my severance pay runs out this week. I’ve had no luck in the job search so far and only have about 2 more months of savings. My parents are literally harassing me to take an entry-level job somewhere ASAP but I just can’t do it. Aside from the blow to my already fragile ego, how do I explain to potential future employers that I managed a very large enterprise-level network and now I work at Best Buy upgrading video cards and installing overpriced software?

    I guess in the end it comes down to finances whether I like it or not. I can’t pay my mortgage with pride. I’m giving myself 2 more weeks and then I’m going to suck it up and start applying for junior network admin jobs and take the $20-30K pay cut I fear is coming. It beats the heck out the $40-50K pay cut I’d take as an entry-level tech. I’ve applied for several lower positions so far (those with large companies where I could work my way back up in a couple of years) and got turned down each time for being overqualified.

  8. This is one of the toughest decisions to ever have to make, but one that may be the only hope in a short-term situation. Is McDonald’s going to be a red flag on your record, or is it a progression to a new position (i.e., retail management)? If not, don’t go there.

    I think a step job is always a possibility, and a stronger one at that. Find a skill in your set that is worth some money to someone and take a position. I know earlier in life I did so to make ends meet. Of course, I also tried my hand at fast food management, and after a month in the position knew it was not a good move!

    My brother has used temp agencies as a stop gap in a time when he needed a position, and it actually got him the position he has now. Something from that avenue is always going to be better on your overall resume than flipping burgers (unless, of course, you plan on taking Ray Krok’s job – no wait, he’s already gone!).

    Is McDonald’s an option? I think a better one whould always be a temp agency, if the need arises.

  9. I practice your suggestion and have called it “boot-strapping” or “generating multiple streams of income”.

    To fund my entrepreneurial venture I work in “step jobs” as an HR consultant to a temp agency ( interview prospective employees) and as a conceirge at a major specialty retailer.

    I love the time flexibility and the people I meet!

  10. Way back in the 80’s when the first white collar downsizing occurred I undertook research on how folk used to ‘unemployment’ managed their experience. I was teaching full-time in a business school

    I looked at actors who’s work life is unpredictable with long periods of ‘unemployment’. The psychologically healthiest where those who had ‘part-time’ jobs that got them out of the home, interaction with people and some income as well as ‘structuring their time’. There was a tendency amongst the ‘stay at homers’ to higher levels of despondency and depression etc etc. Less good mental health.

    So there are potentially large mental health benefits, putting you in a better state of mind for the job hunt and the interview etc apart from personal relationships etc which can suffer to.

  11. There is nothing wrong with working a job to pay the bills while you look for your “dream” job. I’ve found some exceptional candidates that are doing what it takes to make ends meet while they “network” into a career position.

    I have heard this story time and time again about interviews:

    Interviewer: Why should I hire you?
    Interviewee: Because I “need” a job.

    This is not a good reason to hire someone. “Because I’m the perfect person for this position!” is…

    Let’s face it, if you are already working, earning some income to cover your expenses while interviewing for your next career position, you will come across more confident about why the next company should hire you. It can also help your time line so that you don’t have to job hunt.

    My husband just completed a 15 month career search – working at a job he really couldn’t stand… but paying our mortgage and living expenses! Sure it was painful, but in the end he was a far better candidate (passive) to employers, recruiters and referrals. They had no idea he was actually an active seeker!

    If I were in a situation where I needed to work, I’d sign up with a temp agency (Volt is a great one!). A lot of agencies have large accounts with large venders and it could be a good foot in the door to one of them. OR, I’d at least work for a large chain that pays health benefits. Gosh, the savings in health benefits could be huge and should be considered in the calculations.

    Network, network, network into your next position! Working someone only helps build that network.

    Another GREAT post Jason!

  12. awesome, awesome, awesome comments. I sit here and pontificate, throw some ideas together, and hope someone reads this blog. And then I get comments like this and am humbled to see that this might help people – and really, the comments make this blog what it is – thank you!

    I just wanted to pick out a GEM from Heather’s comment… her husband had a step job and he essentially camouflaged himself as a passive job seeker… which is the thing that many recruiters and hiring managers are looking for (unfair, I know)…

    If nothing else, getting the right step job helps you become a PASSIVE job seeker, and thus, more desirable… WOW – that is reason enough!

    Very powerful.

  13. I worked for 10 months at a local McDonald’s after being unemployed for some time. We needed the money and it kept me from moping around our home. I also learned some great teamwork skills and got some experience working in a high-paced environment. I also got free meals, which came in handy.

    I and the store manager knew I was over-qualified for the job, and he had encouraged me to look into working full-time and even managerial positions. In the end, the job wasn’t a right fit for me for various reasons and it was time to move on.

    About a month later I was contacted by a friend I’d worked with years prior about my most recent position.

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