PayScale: How did you get started in your food service job at the amusement park?
I got started in this field of work almost on accident. I showed up to a job fair for the park and when looking at my application I was kind of unsure of what I wanted to do. When I saw the foods department I decided I would give it a shot because I needed the job and liked to cook. When I got the job I was overjoyed, so much so that I went into training eager to learn how everything was made. I was able to learn how all the big machinery in the kitchens worked and learned all the recipes. Even though it didn’t seem like an entirely fun position, I was motivated by my natural drive to show people I knew how to do everything. This eagerness got me a team lead position very quickly, and soon I was running my own building. This made me even more motivated because I knew management was watching me even more. So, while I may not have really had much knowledge going into the food department field, the motivation I had for always being my best was able to get me to a team lead position quite fast.
PayScale: What do you love about your job?
The most enjoyable part about my job is seeing the smiles on the customers’ faces when they bite into the food that I prepared for them. Being able to see someone appreciate my work really helps and inspires me to keep working in foods. I simply love being able to cook and being able to see people enjoy the fruits of my labor. One of the best examples of this has a short story. I was working in the ice cream building, which was unusual for me, and this little kid came in. It was at least 80 degrees out and this kid looked parched. I smiled and took his order. I put an extra scoop in his bowl and saw his face light up. It was great. His smile was the biggest I had ever seen on a kid and when he took his first bite, his smile grew. It made my job feel noble. I also love my employees. While working in the same building for the full summer with the same people may seem very unexciting, it can be extremely fun. My fellow employees make it fun. We love to entertain customers by showing them how the specialty foods are cooked and we always share jokes and just have a bright atmosphere while working. This atmosphere makes you love your job and is something that you may not find anywhere else. One of the best things about working with these same people is that when you get let out early, you have someone to roam the park with. Probably the best memory from working at the park over the summer is spending time in the park with my coworkers. We were able to ride all the rides whenever we wanted, which made me love the opportunity and the job.
PayScale: What are the biggest challenges you face in your job?
One of the biggest challenges with being a team lead in an amusement park is knowing that if something goes wrong you have to handle it. If a customer is unhappy with something you have to figure out how to calm them down and get them to explain what their situation is. While this is simple for some people to do, it can be very difficult for others to calm down. Sometimes, when you cannot control the situation, you have to know when to call in management and when to call security. A second big challenge is keeping your building ready for anything. Being a team lead, you are in charge of ordering food materials for your building; if you run out of something you must accept it as your fault and fix it. You must fix it as soon as possible so you can keep your building up and running and making money for the park. Sometimes this requires leaving your building to run across the park to the foods warehouse and getting the item yourself, even though this may not be the best option if something happens at your building while you are gone. The third biggest challenge is making sure your building is comfortable for your employees. You have to make sure all your employees are comfortable working in the same building with you, as any friction between employees may lead to a miscommunication that can cause a customer to become unhappy. You must always have a friendly attitude, not just toward the customers, but toward your coworkers as well. These three challenges may not seem like much, but letting one get out of control could lead to a major problem in your building, and that is always worse to deal with than just fixing the little challenges first.
PayScale: Do you have any advice for people interested in amusement park jobs?
If you want to get into the amusement park business, don’t stress. It isn’t really difficult and is a great way to earn some extra money. The best way to get a job at an amusement park is applying at the right time. If your park operates seasonally then make sure you apply just after winter. While they primarily try to rehire old employees, they will always need more people. If your park isn’t seasonal, apply around that same time anyway, as with summer comes more tourism and they will need more employees to support the park. If you miss the prime dates to apply, the next best thing is to check and see if they have a job fair. The park I worked for had a job fair where over 500 people were cycled through a massive on-the-spot interview process. If you go to one of these, be sure to look your best and go in with the attitude that you want to work for them. They need to hire people and if you present yourself well, they will be more likely to hire you. These tips work for any job, but they are especially important for a job where you will be representing the park directly. You need to show them that you are a well-composed person.
PayScale: Do you recall any crazy or interesting moments from your job?
Since this was one of my first jobs ever, the most interesting thing I learned was how disrespectful some people are. This isn’t a bad thing. I have seen many people who are completely disrespectful in any restaurant. Some customers always complain about how the prices are too high and the service is never enough. With this job I have seen many disrespectful people and have had to deal with a few myself. The most outstanding thing about this job is that you learn to be respectful because if you treat your customers with honest respect, like you should every human being, they will have a better time at the park. For instance, there was this one time when a customer just seemed to be having a horrible day. He had the worst look on his face. When he ordered his food he wanted a couple things, but upon looking at the prices he frowned. He was only able to get one item. As I watched him walk away he opened his food and his smile lit up the room. I had added an extra item in his box because I knew he needed it. He came back and asked who had made his food. He said he wanted to chat and I stepped out back and was the recipient of the biggest, most awkward hug in the world. This experience taught me what it truly means to always be kind and respectful and is probably one of my most memorable moments at the park.