Summer Shifts

by Sarah Feinberg, Features Editor
photos contributed by Noya Stessel and Dylan Yee

After clocking in at 10:30 a.m., junior Noya Stessel’s workday begins. During her six-hour shift as a restaurant team member at Shake Shack, she frequents the shake station, chats with her fellow employees and takes a number of orders from the incoming slew of customers.

Unlike many other teens and adults who dread going to work, Stessel said that she appreciates her summer job.

“I generally want to go to work, and sometimes I want to go to work on days where I don’t even have a scheduled shift or I just want to stay after because it’s fun,” she said. “I’m talking to people I like talking to, and I’m feeling good and productive because I’m also doing something.”

Stessel said that Shake Shack’s environment fosters an inclusive community among employees.

“You have a table with everyone’s food and drinks, and you can have full conversations with them even if you don’t know their name,” Stessel said. “In less than a week, I was already friends with everyone.”

One of the many traditions that bring the employees closer together are pre-weekend treats.

“Fridays are really nice … two people get muffins and croissants for everybody, and that’s really fun,” Stessel said. “It’s the same thing for that afternoon, and the same people get ice cream for everybody,” she said.

In addition to conversations over shared pastries, Stessel said that her thoughtful co-workers have given helpful guidance.

“I’ve met a lot of different people, and a lot of them are also older, so I can ask them for advice for college,” she said.

All jobs come with challenges, and Stessel said that hers is no exception: rush hour quickly escalates with the influx of customers.

“When you’re behind the screen or you have a lot of food or shakes to make and there are people yelling at you, it’s a lot, and that’s part of the job,” she said.

Amid these daily stressors, Stessel said she can find some calm during her frequent visits to the milkshake station. While she has many tasks that involve cleaning, Stessel said that she finds washing the shake station to be particularly relaxing.

“Cleaning the shake station is weirdly fun,” she said “The station gets messy really easily, so it’s very satisfying.”

After getting home from work at 5:45 p.m, Stessel said she typically keeps herself busy with tasks for her journalism internship, for which she frequently writes letters and fundraises.

Since working at Shake Shack, Stessel said that she has gained a greater sense of responsibility and independence.

“It has made me realize how I’m actually growing up, and how I’m going to face responsibilities in the future,” she said. “Now that I know how much work you have to put in to earn that money.”

For junior Dylan Yee, working as a sales associate at Marshalls has introduced him to the responsibilities of having a job. On an average workday, Yee spends hours tidying up the aisles, bringing in new shipments of shoes and interacting with customers.

“It’s not that different from school. You just make sure you’re there on time, you have responsibilities you’re doing and you make sure you’re kind to everybody,” he said.

Among the benefits of Yee’s job, some of which include its proximity to his home and air conditioning, he said that working for the first time has expanded his outlook on being an employee.

“I like learning how a store works from a non-customer perspective,” he said. “It’s really cool to go behind the counter and feel like I belong there, instead of just being a customer.” 

From his many tasks, Yee said that he particularly enjoys interacting with the customers. 

“I work at the front, so I’m usually the person people go to for questions when they first walk into the store. It feels pretty good to help people,” he said.

While Yee said that working with customers can be gratifying, his job can entail tedious tasks and occasional interactions with inconsiderate customers.

“[The job is] not so tiring physically, but mentally,” he said. “Imagine sitting in the same part of a store for five hours straight, and occasionally picking up the messes some kids make,” he said.

In addition to working a 25 hour week, Yee said that he has been productive with academic work and has been able to continue activities he enjoys.

“When you work five days a week and each shift is five hours, there can still be a lot of other time in the day to do other stuff,” he said. “Outside of just working, I’m running, I’m doing prep for AP U.S. History, SAT stuff and hanging out with friends,” he said. 

Yee said that he has learned memorable life lessons from working.

“It’s a good experience because it gets you thinking about how the working world works,” he said. “It’s more realistic.”