14 March 2013

Fake It 'Til You Make It

Tell a story set at your first job.

My first job was nothing particularly extraordinary or glamorous. I was a hostess in a family chain restaurant  and if you've ever worked in the service industry, you know all the ins and outs that entails. 

I spent all day racking my brain, trying to remember various stories that were worthy of being told (or more importantly, a-okay to actually publish), and while some memories made me smile and laugh, and others made me shake my head ruefully - was anyone ever that young? - I kept coming back to two things. 

The first was, the day I got hired. It started an oddly successful trend of me saying "I want to work there" and it happening (often faster than I expected). And, it started the confidence in myself that if I don't know how to do something or what something is about, I have enough gumption and intelligence to jump in, figure it out, smiling all the while and making the customers happy. 

I randomly decided one day after school that I'd pop in and see if they were hiring. No forethought. No practicing interview questions. Barely knew my Social Security Number to complete the application. I walked in, asked if they were hiring and was given a table and a soda to drink while I filled out my application. I figured it'd take a few days to get a request from management for an interview, if I got one at all, so when I finished, I handed it off to someone and got ready to leave. The manager came flying out and asked me to stay for an interview after she got my application. 

I stayed. 

I interviewed. I asked for a job in the kitchen. I figured with my hearing loss, I'd be better working away from the customers in a crowded, noisy restaurant. I said I'd be a fast study in learning how to cook. 

The manager laughed and told me, "I'm hiring you as a hostess. You'll be perfect at greeting the customers and running the restaurant."

I walked out, hired, with a start date, and incredulous. 

I worked at the restaurant for almost five years, including summers, holidays, and random weekends home from college. I started as a hostess/busboy, and quickly became a hostess trainer. Within months, I was helping run the kitchen on busy nights (oftentimes, someone is needed to make sure orders are going out completed and in a timely manner) and subbing as a cook as needed. As soon as I was legal to serve, I was serving and training others. I left before I was old enough to bartend there, but my experiences in that restaurant led to other, better bartending experiences and great customer service stories that helped me landed every single one of my professional career jobs. 

All because I brazenly said, "I want to work there."

And the other thing I took away from that position ties in perfectly with that confidence to brazen my way through until I actually know and confidently can do whatever is asked of me. One of the managers there lived, and I mean annoyingly so, lived by the mantra, "fake it 'til you make it." He wanted every single employee to always be exuberantly cheerful. It could be downright annoying at times, but it was absolutely necessary in a customer service position to always have a smile on your face. 

But the thing about putting a smile on your face, even when you don't want to, is that eventually it becomes a genuine smile. And a genuine smile eventually leads to genuine happiness. Until that happens, fake it. But "fake it 'til you make it" has applied in so many other aspects of my career since those early days, that I'm grateful for the lesson, and the reminder on my not-so days. 


Deborah Tisch said...

"... the reminder on those not-so days." Yes, to take what we have learned along the journey and use that knowledge as we move on...that is a great gift, in my opinion.

KT Mac said...

Deborah - I agree! It is such a gift, and an incredibly powerful one when you really stop and consider it.