5 Life Lessons I learnt from working at Subway

As a student I’ve always wondered what the working world would be like, and often found myself wishing that I could grow up more quickly so that I could stop schooling and start working. While waiting for school to begin again this year, I found myself a part-time job at Subway and in the process of working, I learnt 5 main lessons that I will remember for life.

  1. Having Responsibility is EXTREMELY important

There are 2 main types of responsibility that we all should have, a responsibility to ourselves and a social responsibility to the people around us. We definitely have to take care of our own interests and well-being but there is this set of basic guidelines that we should adhere to in our interactions with others as well. We’ve learnt all of this in school and in our daily lives as we constantly come into contact with other people but it becomes especially important in the working world because of the very real and sometimes serious consequences our actions will have. I realised this first hand when one day a colleague of mine was forced to stay at work even though her shift was over because her replacement was late in coming to work. The lack of responsibility on the other worker’s part ended up causing a lot of inconvenience to my colleague.

On a more serious level, as I worked at Subway, we came into direct contact with the food that we served, so maintaining a high hygiene standard was essentially for the welfare of the customers. There were many stringent procedures and rules that we had to follow as we prepared the food, some of which were very troublesome. At the end of it all however, it was our responsibility to make sure that the food we served was hygienic because we owed it to our customers. They had placed a trust in us that we could not betray, and the weight of this realization really gave me a new perspective on the importance of having responsibility.

2. “Do unto others what you want others to do unto you”

This is truly the Golden Rule, even or perhaps especially in a workplace. It took me a while to realise this, but when my colleagues helped me in small ways like opening the oven for me, I started to do the same for them as well. It came instinctively, the feeling of wanting to reciprocate their kindness, but the same can be said for its flipside as well. When someone is rude to you, won’t you automatically feel like being rude to that person as well? Working is never easy and it gets downright stressful at times. I found it literally impossible to maintain a smile on my face as I served the customers, even though I knew that I should have been doing so. On more occasions than I would like to admit, I got pretty impatient with the customers who had a lot of requirements and demands. Even though I tried not to let my emotions affect my actions, I’m sure that my annoyance was probably conveyed to them. They in turn probably felt insulted at my attitude and the vicious cycle carried on.

I always desired for the customers to be respectful and nice, but how could I expect that of them when I myself didn’t respect them first? They have a right to make requests about the food that they wanted, sometimes due to personal preference or even health reasons, and my duty is to meet their needs. Having the right mindset and attitude is really important when working because it reminds us of our duties and in turn how we should be going about carrying them out.

3. Teamwork is a key to success

Learning to work in a team and cooperating with the people around us — it’s not a new lesson, it’s one that’s been constantly ingrained in us since we started school, but when it comes to the working world the results of good teamwork suddenly seem more direct and clear. Imagine an extremely long queue of impatient customers waiting for you to serve them in the height of dinner rush hour, there’s no way we can settle the crowd on our own, especially as a student part timer. We simply lack the experience and expertise required to do so, hence we need to rely even more on our colleagues. To have a rapport with them and to know how exactly to work with them efficiently takes time and practice, but we also have to be open to work with the people around us. We cannot have an individualistic mindset because we would never be able to get anything done at that rate. To be humble and learn from our colleagues, to be considerate and try to help the people around us, these are all traits which will help us work better in a team, a skill that will become increasingly important as we complete our education and become working adults.

4. Time is precious

There’s a famous saying that Time=Money, and while I don’t necessarily agree with that, time is indeed very precious and should not be wasted. If there’s one thing I learnt from my job this time around, it’s that good time management is a very useful skill. During the lull periods where no one would come to the restaurant, my colleagues made full use of their time and went about preparing more ingredients, cleaning the trays and even drinking water to prepare for the next stream of customers. Because they did so, they had energy and were ready to face the huge crowd; they didn’t have to end up run around scrambling for ingredients during the busy periods. Time management isn’t just about making use of your time though, it’s also about having foresight and the ability to predict what you would need next. Again, it’s another skill that comes with experience but nonetheless an important lesson for us part-timers because it applies in every situation that we are likely to face in the future, be it in school or other social settings.

5. Be content & find joy in the mundaneness of life

We all wish at some point in our school life that we could quit studying and lead a carefree life, but the final lesson I learned through my short working experience was that we should always be content with where we are now, whether we are working or schooling. The grass is always going to be greener on the other side, as boring and tough as school is, working is definitely more mundane and tiring. Going to work also means dealing with new issues like managing a Singpass account and having to constantly check your bank account. If we are able to find joy in the little things and be contented with what we have, we’ll definitely start to have a more positive outlook on life. As much as I would hate to admit it, the adults are probably right, our school days are gonna be the best time of our lives, let’s enjoy the rest of it while we can.