I think the one thing that terrifies us more than anything, as the end of Uni approaches, is the prospect of facing the real world without much of a clue as to what to do in it. What career will I take? How can I make myself truly successful?
Well, I’m in the same boat as you, so I wanted to take some time to do a little digging and find out what opportunities are out there.
Luckily, for those of you looking to go into business or management, I have a proposal for you: why not work for one of the largest businesses in the world?
With this in mind, I managed to arrange an interview with Chris King, a senior member of management for the South East branches of McDonald’s, who kindly agreed to share his experiences and perspectives on the student situation and how McDonald’s can offer an avenue into a successful career, post-degree.
Interviewer: Hi Chris, thank you for meeting with me today.
Chris: My pleasure, more than happy to help.
Int: So my first question is why do you think it’s important that students get involved in business?
Chr: I think it’s because business is a broad subject on the whole. It opens doors to many opportunities in such a diverse area of subjects. It’s not just one aspect, it’s so broad and varied. It’s also part of the future. With Brexit on the horizon, we will be in uncharted territory. Businesses will need to adapt accordingly and I think it’s important that all generations, older, younger, are involved in the prosperity of our economy. It has been suggested that Brexit has its opportunities and its risks. But the British way is to embrace what we have and make the best of it. So encouraging students to engage in business is the best start to that I believe.
Int: I think you are right. If any time called for some intervention, especially from some fresh voices, now is the time for students to get involved. With students in mind, I would like to ask how you got into business? To provide a perspective on how it can be achieved, if you’re comfortable to divulge such information.
Chr: Of course, so I started with McDonalds in 2000. I started by working the dining area, in the Isle of Sheppey restaurant just after my 17th birthday. I started university in 2001, studying business marketing at the University of Kent. I graduated in 2006 and I can safely say that my course helped me in striving towards the position I am in today. However, I also think it is important to emphasise that McDonald’s offers opportunities to all regardless of education and background. It certainly has helped me in getting to my position. I think it’s about having a bit of a thirst for achieving your goals, gaining the best business results. You don’t just get to where you want to be by sitting back, you need a vision to work towards.
Int: Definitely, and do you feel your part-time job also contributed to your success, did you see an opportunity there already, even before graduating?
Chr: I would say certainly, yes. Working at McDonalds, I saw a lot of opportunities. It’s a great company to work for, especially as there’s a lot of flexibility in terms of timetables and education. Even after becoming an Area Supervisor, I am still benefitting from this. It’s a 24/7 business and yet it always accommodates myself and its other employees to work around the best suitable times. However, for those looking for a more stable influx of work, McDonald’s has started to offer a guaranteed hours scheme which is open to all employees.
Int: Being an employee myself, I can affirm that point, the flexibility is much appreciated as a full-time student. Going back to the business side of things, what do you think are the best means by which students can get introduced into business, can begin to integrate themselves into that kind of infrastructure?
Chr: Well there’s the obvious answer: graduate positions. McDonald’s offers a managerial training programme to those with a degree or suitable experience such as coming from a position of management. With that background, you are able to apply for the Trainee Business Manager scheme. If you succeed in this, you can work to higher positions. You’d start as a Second Assistant manager and work your way up, a short cut rather than the usual method of training from a crew member.
There’s also the entrepreneurial avenue, the Alan Sugar, self-employed and self-driven route, which can clearly be very successful too. I do think it’s down to the individual: do they want to be working for a brand, do they want to be working for themselves or working for a larger business?
Int: And for those who weren’t in the position of having the previous experience, could they work up from a position such as a crew member?
Chr: Absolutely. The majority of our managers have started as hourly paid crew members. The proportion of external candidates is very small compared to the traditional route of ascending from a crew member. My degree helped me personally but it wasn’t essential.
In this frame of mind, I must add that McDonald’s offers an efficient programme in training. We provide apprenticeships, which are open to all staff should they wish to utilise it. We also offer a chartered management degree for current salaried managers, through the Metropolitan University of Manchester. Since 2009, a total of 18,500 apprenticeships have been completed. We have an MDP programme which complements the degree also, through which managers’ train by working through a roadmap, if you will, passing each section in order to progress to the point of passing the qualification, akin to a normal degree.
Int: So it seems as though there are a whole range of options there, that’s fantastic. On the basis of application, what skills do you think someone wanting to go into business management should possess?
Chr: A lot of it is down to personal attributes. It is one thing being able to do a task, and another thing entirely to have the right approach for that task. You need to have determination, drive, a vision, as well as short, middle and long-term goals. You need to plan, be a good strategist, be able to foresee upcoming problems and exploit opportunities in an ethical way. You need to be able to build relationships with key stakeholders in business, such as councils, other local businesses, customers of course and even the local MP. Anybody who could have an outside influence on your success, you need to build that relationship. You can’t be going in single-minded, you have to look at the bigger picture. Business is about fitting into the local community.
It’s also about making the tough decisions if they arise. However, they must be decisions that are for the benefit of the employee, the customer and the local community.
I will add that empowering and entrusting your employees is one of your strongest tools. You want to know who will complete the task to the best of their ability and effort. You also need to take risks sometimes, by tasking someone with a job that is going to be developmental, not the easy and quick option of getting it done as quickly as possible. There are occasions where you do have to choose someone who might not get the task done as well as another manager, but it’s essential for them in terms of development, having a little faith in them, to let them take on that task and build on their abilities.
Int: I do believe that’s important and a worthwhile skill for any prospective business manager, to be able to engage with your employees is a must, as they’re the ones actually at work on the production line.
Chr: Absolutely, I’d always encourage any member of management to get involved as much as possible working alongside all levels of the team. It’s important to demonstrate that you know the challenges every team member faces in their role.
Int: That’s fantastic, well thank you very much for your time Chris.
Chr: It’s been a pleasure, hopefully it helps give students some confidence to move forward with a clear and positive outlook.
Hopefully this provides an interesting perspective on the opportunities that business provides, particularly through a large and successful corporation such as McDonald’s. With a little bit of ambition and drive, I think we all have the ability to rise up and achieve great things. It’s about taking chances and hopefully this interview will inspire that in you for the forthcoming end of study.
For any additional information on the employment and apprenticeship schemes that Chris has mentioned in the interview above, visit the following link: