This article was found on MSN Careers, I think it is a great article. I was glad to have read it to remind me why I have worked so hard in the past and what I need to continue on my job track into the future.
What do Jay Leno, Sharon Stone, Jeff Bezos, Carl Lewis and Pink have in common? They're all successes in their fields -- and among the estimated 10 percent of Americans who have worked at McDonald's.
Most careerists think of McDonald's as a job for kids. Still, some of those kids stick it out -- and are rewarded with fast-track promotions and dream-come-true careers. In fact, three out of four mid- to senior-level corporate managers at McDonald's started out as crew members. Likewise, the organization has created more millionaires than any other company in America -- especially among women and minorities. I myself started out behind the grill -- and 34 years later had risen through the ranks to be a regional vice president.
With nearly 15 million Americans now out of work, many job seekers are wondering if the American Dream is fading. Is it possible in today's economic climate to work hard, move up the corporate ladder and get ahead?
No doubt about it. Job seekers who are willing to do low-skilled work initially, want to learn and develop, are ambitious and have a clear vision of where they'd like to be in three to five years are good candidates for bottom-rung jobs. But don't waste your time at the bottom unless you are confident that the company hiring you has your best career interests at heart.
For example, before you take just any "starter job," you should find out if this is a goal- and growth-oriented job, as opposed to a dead-end job. In your interview, it is perfectly fine to ask such questions as: What percentage of your mid- to senior-level managers are promoted from within? What programs and policies are set up for helping high-achieving employees develop new skills? Is mobility at this company limited, or could one apply for jobs elsewhere in the company for which one is qualified?
A low-level job can be a great steppingstone to a promising career, as I know firsthand. Let's look at six key ways a bottom-rung job can help boost your career:
Teaches you the ropes
Be curious, ask questions and offer suggestions. You'll wind up learning more about business than in most MBA classes. You will learn the importance of leading by example, and how powerful that can be in motivating employees when you are doing the same tasks they are. You can learn new skills that can have benefit later on as you move up the management ladder (or return to it). And in this environment, unlike only a few years ago, taking a position for which you may be overqualified will not be viewed as a bad move, but more as an aggressive move to "stay in the game."
Hones your work style
Always work hard -- and never be satisfied. Traits such as these will serve you down the road as an executive or entrepreneur. It will reinforce many principles of managing people, such as "expect what you inspect," and the importance of following up and making sure a job is done well and the bar is set high enough. In other words, having high expectations of others obligates you to be involved in making sure others succeed -- and giving them what they need to do so. The discipline you develop in lower-rung jobs will help you cultivate key management traits that will be useful later on.
Refines relationship skills
Now is the time to perfect your people skills. Practice listening more than talking, resolving conflicts and rolling with the punches. Collaboration and cooperation among your new group can offer a surprising and interesting opportunity to gain insights into a team process. It can give you a subordinate's view of what really works in leadership execution.
Choose wisely and you can move up the ranks quickly. Look for a company with a track record of aggressive talent management and exceptional career velocity. Chances are you will be exposed to a great variety of folks in age, ethnic diversity and gender. All of this can be a great learning experience that will give you insights later on. Exposure to different groups outside of your comfort zone can be challenging and fun.
Take care with your work relationships -- higher-ups, peers and subordinates -- and you'll have career champions for a lifetime. The best organizations have employees who develop, in many cases, lifelong bonds. These can be truly rewarding in many ways. Likewise, they can expose you to groups, organizations and networks you may have never considered previously.
There is no upside to unemployment. Learn to appreciate the goodness of work itself and what a job can teach you. You really have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If you are good, and can prove it, you should be among the first to move up within the organization, and you have already proven your commitment and understanding of the basic job functions. You will have a head start on many of the folks who may be competing for the same job in the future.
Paul Facella is founder and CEO of Inside Management (www.insidemanagement.com), a nationally recognized consulting group, and author of "Everything I Know About Business I Learned at McDonald's."