In our regular series, important people take us back to their very first jobs
Hi Luke! Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Luke Thompson, and I am the founding director of London-based legal recruitment company, Introlegal. I was a divorce lawyer for 12 years then moved over to recruitment about five years ago. I also host the podcast series, Let’s Talk Law.
What was your first McJob?
Working at a newly established McDonald’s in Bedfordshire.
How did you get the job?
I’d recently finished my GCSEs and went out on my BMX in the summer holidays, cycled around looking for work, stopped off to get some food from McDonald’s, and asked to speak to a manager to see if they had any vacancies. I was given an interview on the spot, offered the job, and started the following week.
What did you have to do?
I was pretty useless in the kitchen. It was quite apparent that my skill set wasn’t flipping burgers, so I was front of house on the tills.
How long did you work there for?
From 16–18. I then left for a gap year in Camp America and thereafter university.
What did you spend your first paycheque on?
A chrome GT BMX, so an upgrade on the BMX I’d cycled to McDonald’s on to get the job. I’ve still got it, although my wife has often asked me when I might get rid as I am a bit of a sentimental hoarder, and it takes up much needed space in the shed!
Did anything funny happen?
Age 17, I’d just passed my driving test. It was a Saturday that I didn’t have a shift, so I decided to show off my new wheels to my co-workers. I misjudged the curb and managed to wedge my car in the barriers right outside the drive thru collection window with all my co-workers laughing at me! Some of the guys from the kitchen had to help me physically move the car as I was holding up the whole peak lunchtime dive thru traffic.
What skills did you learn that you still use today?
Patience. Customer care. A lot of the customers could be rude, which was not ideal when you’re 16, so it taught me resilience. Between 1pm and 2pm on a Saturday, we would compete to see who could push the most sales through in an hour. I won on quite a few occasions, which is where I believe my hunger and passion for sales came from. The prize was a £100 voucher!
Did you get your five stars?
I never actually gained five stars. I was always a bit of a cheeky chappie, and liked to be the centre of attention, making everyone laugh. But I was image conscious enough to know that five stars looked good so I pestered one of my bosses: “I want five stars, because an empty badge looks naff.” He said: “You’ve gotta work for it”. I never officially had five stars, but always had five stars on my uniform which was good enough for me!
Are you in contact with anyone you worked with?
A couple of people on LinkedIn, who’ve gone on to do extremely well from their early careers at McDonald’s.
Why is alumni so important to you personally?
It’s a sense of belonging. I’m also a sucker for nostalgia, so it’s a great platform to keep in contact.
Why is alumni important in business?
It allows you to expand your networks through people you knew at university or at previous jobs. There’s a huge trust element in alumni. You already have a common denominator that helps open up conversation.
What would happen if you went back and did a shift in McDonald’s today?
I still probably wouldn’t earn five stars!
If you could go back in time and give yourself one bit of advice, what would you say?
Try and earn your five stars! I wouldn’t take my youth for granted — I’d give anything to go back to those times when you’re young and carefree. They’re the best years of your life, for sure. My son has just finished his GCSEs and started working at McDonald’s, and I’m very envious! In fact, he has used my old BMX to get to one of his shifts recently when he was running late, which was cool! The camaraderie at McDonald’s was phenomenal. Lots of things happened that I probably shouldn’t tell you, but the classic was if a customer was particularly rude, we would park them in the parking bay and ignore them for ages.