My First Job & How Working At Taco Bell Helped Me Further My College Career

After 12 years of school, no one prepares you for entering the workforce and what you can expect. Upon graduating high school, I began to think about the costs of going off to college and what that would look like for my family, so I began my search for a job.

The Hiring Process Takes Patience

The application process was longer than I thought it would be. I remember applying to almost every job someone would say there was an opening in or wherever I saw a now hiring sign. As someone without prior work experience, I felt it would be difficult to land a job.

Then, one summer afternoon, about a month after sending out all my applications, I got a phone call asking if I was available for an interview. My heart began to race immediately, but I did not hesitate to say yes as I desperately needed a job. I remember looking up questions commonly asked at interviews, explicitly working in fast food, as that was the job I would be interviewing for. During the interview, I was asked only a few of the questions I had been rehearsing. Still, at the end, I was asked if I would be available to start the following week, and that is when I was filled with so much relief and joy. 

I did not officially start that following week, but I did begin the paperwork and orientation process. I had to read over and sign countless forms regarding the rules of the workplace as well as what to expect as an employee working for the Taco Bell company. I was given a brief orientation as well and, in the end, was given a start date which is when my nerves started to kick in as this was all getting so much more real!

I remember going home that day and telling my parents all about it and telling them we had to go shopping for my work shoes and work pants as soon as possible because those would not be provided for me. I was very excited as my start date was approaching.

fast food worker behind counter

Training & Orientation

On my first day I was greeted by the general manager. She gave me a tour of the restaurant and explained my main tasks as a cashier. Then I was introduced to my future coworkers, who were also very welcoming. I felt so much better about everything.

I started my training immediately and spent hours on the computer looking through all the menu items and modification buttons and practicing different possible order combinations. 

As I familiarized myself with everything, my coworkers led a practice run. They acted as customers, and I as the cashier, which helped me learn more and feel more comfortable. I also observed how my coworker would handle the drive-thru window. There were always two cashiers, one would take the orders, and the other would be at the window charging and then passing the food. I was put at the drive-thru window first because that was easier since I would not yet be in charge of taking orders.

Practice Builds Skills & Confidence

As time passed, I got faster and faster at charging and multitasking. One day I was getting ready for my shift and my coworker approached me and said, “Today, you will take orders.” My heart dropped because I did not feel confident doing that, but she told me she would be beside me if I had any questions or needed help. When the first car approached the speaker, and my headset began to ring, I knew I had to give it my all and learn from my mistakes. At first, I was not the fastest, and customers would often get impatient, but as time went on and after countless cars, I could take orders without a problem.

Fast forward a couple of months, I could take orders and run the drive-thru at the same time when we were short-staffed. About a year in, the manager told me she would begin to train me to make the meals, which was a new challenge for me. I remember feeling anxious, but everyone in the kitchen would teach me whenever it was slow. After practicing so much, I could make any item on the menu by memory. 

Even If It Doesn’t Seem Like It At The Time, That First Job Is An Important Setup For Future Employment Success (Even If The Jobs Are Totally Different)

a person climbing a ladder to get to teh stairs

I worked for Taco Bell for a year and a half, and it was a great first job experience. I feel lucky to have found a place where the managers and my coworkers were all so nice. It eventually became my second home as I reached a point where I would work up to 40-hour weeks. I felt sad leaving, but I knew it was something I had to do as I always told myself that it would only be a temporary job until I was presented with better opportunities.

I am currently working at my university as a student assistant for the Biology department, and my first job gave me a lot of experiences that helped me during my interview at this current job. I am thankful for my time at Taco Bell as that was an excellent way to understand what it is like being a youth in the workplace. 

Estefany Portillo

Estefany Portillo

Estefany Portillo is 21 years old and currently a senior at California State University Northridge. She is majoring in Biotechnology in hopes of obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Her career aspiration is to become an optometrist and help people understand the importance of vision care.