The day I was fired from a cupcake shop, I came to the conclusion that employment is like dating. It was my first semester of college, and I had settled down and finally gotten into the groove of things. I felt like an adult, living on my own (with two roommates, plus or minus a suitemate or two), paying for my books and keeping myself accountable to a schedule. The final step to being an adult was finding a job and being partially financially independent to save up and pay off my loans. For the first week or so, I didn’t hear from any employers and I was getting desperate. I just wanted to convert whatever free time I had into money and didn’t care what I had to do for it. So when a cupcake shop called me for an interview, I immediately responded. I prepared meticulously for the interview, reviewing my resume and reciting potential interview answers, and chose a bakeshop-appropriate interview outfit — a blue floral button down and black skirt. The following day, I was hired.
I had no previous experience in the food industry and had never held a job before, having only worked paid internships that lasted a few months at a time. Despite my lack of experience, my boss believed that as a UC Berkeley student, I could easily learn the ropes of the shop, so I shadowed another employee for the first two days. Unfortunately, due to the nature of this small business, the employee who was “training” me could not designate sufficient time for our training because she played too big a role in operating the cupcake shop. In between cleaning the store, serving customers, restocking the cupcakes, taking phone and in-shop orders, preparing cupcake bags and boxes and working register, my fellow employee would offer me snippets of advice only to be interrupted by an incoming call or customer minutes later. Hands in and out of latex gloves, my coworker held too many responsibilities, because the small bakeshop couldn’t afford hiring more workers.
My brief and unsatisfactory training didn’t deter my boss from assigning me closing shifts my third day at the job. She believed that because I had been trained a few days before, I could work a seven-hour shift and close shop by myself. Though reluctant, I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I took the shift. To my surprise, my shift flew by and I didn’t encounter problems working by myself. The following week I checked my schedule and my boss had designated me more closing shifts, which I assumed meant she approved of my work.
But a few days later, I was fired. While lounging at my friend’s home over Thanksgiving weekend, I received a poorly written email from my boss regarding my dismissal. I was shocked and confused, because I didn’t understand what I had done wrong. I analyzed the situation, retracing my steps to check if I’ve made any vital mistakes, asking myself if I had arrived to work too early or a little late the previous shifts and contemplating how being fired would affect my future employment.
I obsessed over being fired. I deluded myself into thinking that every mistake I made was a direct reflection of myself and my potential rather than simply coincidence. The more I dwelled on being fired, the more I doubted myself, so I had to treat the entire incident with levity in order to move on.
That’s when I reached the conclusion that employment is like dating. In the beginning, employers are eager to hire employees after examining resumes — tangible lists of things a person can contribute to the skewed relationship. They weigh potential workers’ strengths and weaknesses and compatibility with the business. Based on this, applicants either get a call back or never hear from the company ever again — like a ghost Tinder date. If a person receives a call back, they and the boss enter a honeymoon phase, where unrealistic expectations are implied regarding your job and what it actually entails. Not surprisingly, the communication decreases until someone has the guts to call the relationship quits.
If a person ever gets the “you’re not a good fit” email, they shouldn’t take it personally. Most bosses barely know their employees, and bosses will always prioritize the well-being of the business over an employee. Whatever formal fluff is on a resume will never adequately encompass an individual, because as trite as this sounds, no one can be summarized in words. Just because a person may not be good at cleaning counters and packaging cupcakes doesn’t mean they won’t be good at their dream job designing robots at Google or teaching math in foreign countries. Maybe they’re just not cut out for minimum wage, labor-intensive jobs. So study hard, gain work experience in fields that actually appeal to you and never doubt your potential when others do. And maybe, you’ll be the one hiring instead.
Lauren Ahn writes the Friday blog on inedible nourishment. Contact her at [email protected].