Work culture, it fluctuates from the serious to the casual, to the suit and tie to the answering calls in a cubicle. I work in the lucrative food service industry. Now, don’t go thinking flipping Burgers at Burger King or waitress/hostess at Olive Garden. No, I work for the University of Oregon as a “Food Service Worker 2;” no really that’s my job title. But what comes with an unglamorous job title, comes with some amazing perks and more creative freedom than you would probably believe.
The food service industry is generally looked down upon, a high-stress chef position, or seen as a high school job. Well, not only does my job create a tight knit community that acts like a family but, it also is a culture that thrives in it’s own social norms and rules. We have every walk of life that works there; from the old to the young, to the naturally weird or funny to the slightly anal retentive (everyone has one, you know who they are). But I find myself wondering at work sometimes, that many of the jokes that go on behind the “customer service with a smile” scene, if those jokes would be understood the same way (or if people would realize just how raunchy we are at work when we think others can’t here us)? I’m guessing no, because as an insider of this culture, I don’t need to explain how a simple task of flattening 50 chicken tenders gets turned into joke upon joke on what I’m really doing to the chicken (use your imagination, I know you can do it). But what comes with the culture also comes with, and very specifically in my department, a lot of creative freedom.
I run the Deli case. I make sure that the case is stocked with everything from sandwiches to burritos to salads. But not only do I make sure everything is stocked, I help make the food (there is a special place in hell for me where I will forever be rolling breakfast burritos). I also have to make sure that we aren’t wasting a lot of food. So I have to get creative with leftover food; ‘mind you, we do compost or send food to Food For Lane County after four days. It’s wonderful when I get that, because I get complete creative freedom to do anything I want, and I have made some awesome menu items before (Chicken Buffalo Sandwiches, Pizza Bagels, Muffulettas, Seafood Salad-just a few to name). This is a HUGE reason why I am happy with my job.
The other reason why I seriously love my job is the tuition discount and free food. Sorry, I’m not trying to brag but man I probably wouldn’t have taken the job without these little perks; one perk that cuts my tuition down by 95% and the other saves me money on my groceries. My managers are also super awesome and work my schedule so I can keep taking classes. On top of all this, this is a real job, meaning I get paid vacation leave, sick pay, and union safety (it’s very hard to be fired). But what I can take mostly out of my job besides the innovative and awesome monetary perks, is the fact that I meet and work with some of the coolest people from all walks of life, all while gaining managerial skills. For me, that’s what I get the most out of my job.
So if you’re sitting here reading this thinking, man my job sucks, stop it. Look for the things that give you amazing opportunities for that step into something even better. Look to your coworkers for support and relief at your job. Look inside your own work culture to gain perspective and insight to who you are and where you really want to be and start working towards those goals. Or you could do what my coworkers do and try and make each other laugh, even if you’re having a bad day.