What I Learned from My First Job Interview at Thirteen

Describe your first interview. What lessons did you learn? originally appeared on Quora: the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

I had just turned thirteen and my mother woke me up one Saturday morning and told me two things:

  1. That it was time for me to get a job.
  2. That working for McDonald's would look good on my resume when I got older.

Phase 1: We hopped in the car, drove a couple blocks to our regular McDonald's and picked up an application. My mom handed me a pen and right there in the parking lot, she gave me a tutorial on how to fill out an application. We dropped it off and, apparently, this was only phase one of the plan. Next we'll call first thing Monday to make sure they got your application. That will increase your chances of getting an interview." Uh huh. Phase two worked like a charm. I called, and not only did they get the application, they scheduled me for an interview.

Phase 2: Interview Day: Wearing my best "Church Clothes for an Adolescent Skateboarder", I showed up with knots in my stomach. I guess I really cared about getting this job. As if it was possible, my nerves made my voice crack and squeak like the puberty I'd gone through didn't take for some reason.

The Interviewer: I'll never forget seeing this guy. I'd never seen a McDonald's issue white, button up dress shirt, or a McDonald's employee wearing a tie - but there he was. The best dressed Big Mac boss you've ever seen. "Hello Mr. Lynam. Have a seat." I'd been eating at this location since I was five, but this was the first time it scared me."I want to tell you that we appreciate you filling out this application, but because you're only thirteen, we won't be able to give you a job." Off the hook. Relief. I thank him. "You were very persistent and we look forward to having an interview with you when you're old enough to work."

Phase 3: I hurried back to the car to inform my Mom of the news. "Too young." It was as if the news never registered to my Mother. Like one of those "Goonies Never say Die" moments, but for, you know, a job at McDonalds. So she says, "that's just for this location." Funny thing about McDonald's - there are a lot of them. We immediately drive over to the McDonald's exactly three blocks in the opposite direction of our house, and repeat the steps: Application, Phone Call, and then an Interview.

Then It Happens: I show up at McDonald's #2 exactly a week after my first interview. I wore the same clothes, and this time I was a little less freaked to walk in.  I took a seat because my interviewer was busy. Then I see that same white, button up shirt and tie. McDonald's issue. It's the same guy. You know those nightmares where you wake up, and think you're safe - only to realize it's still part of the nightmare? Well this was the McDonald's job interview version of that. He looks at me, then looks at the application,"Hi Mr. Lynam, um yeah, it's the same deal as last time."

Epilogue: What my Mother taught me was persistence. There are countless times that I think back to this story when I'm faced with a situation that challenges my, or my team's, comfort zone. My Mom still laughs at this story, and so do I, but that doesn't mean I don't respect what this moment has continued to teach me all these years later.

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