Real-life advice from a real-life recruiter

Archive for June, 2012

37 Years and Counting…

I can’t think of any better way to spend an afternoon than talking with Tom Mathews – Training General Manager at North Huntingdon Eat’n Park. Having 37 years of experience with the company, he has a whole lot of great stuff to share. Since, Tom is such a great guy, sharing comes easy for him. And share he did!

Tom started with Eat’n Park back in 1975. He was attending college for Engineering and was looking for a summer job. His grandmother saw an advertisement in the paper for a cook position at the local Eat’n Park and told Tom about it. He applied and got the job. Tom started as a cook, but was soon trained to manage shifts and was running in charge shifts when his managers went on their summer vacations. He liked managing so such that he decided to pursue a career in restaurant management.

Tom was in the Management Training Program for 2 weeks and then was promoted to Assistant Manager.  (The length of Eat’n Park management training sure has changed a LOT since then!) In six months he was promoted to Manager and it didn’t take Tom long to be promoted to General Manager after that! Since that time he has been the General Manager of 7 restaurants. In addition, as I mentioned earlier, he trains newly hired Assistant Managers, teaches an interviewing class here at the Corporate Support Center and is one heck of a softball player.

I asked Tom what Eat’n Park was all about for him. He said one word: Opportunity. He has had so many opportunities since joining Eat’n Park that he can’t even keep track of them. He has been given the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Pirate’s baseball game, given tickets to countless football, baseball, hockey and basketball games. Tom even had the opportunity to go back to the University of Pittsburgh and finish his degree through Eat’n Park’s Tuition Reimbursement program. There has always been someone at Eat’n Park to take an interest in Tom. Eat’n Park is big enough to give opportunity, but small enough that they still know who you are. Not many people can say that the CEO of their company knows their wife, personally, and knows what they like. As you can tell Tom likes sports and the leaders at Eat’n Park are fully aware of Tom’s interest in sports.

Given the breadth of Tom’s experience I asked him for some career advice. He said that often time’s folks forget that they need to produce results to be able to receive recognition and rewards. With that said, Tom lives by the 3-R’s, results, recognition and rewards. In order to get results you must remember: Its business, not personal. Be responsible for your own self development. If you fail to plan you plan to fail.Develop systems. Tom said that it is because of his own ability to create systems which is why he doesn’t need to work hard. He works smart.

Tom, thank you for 37 great years and I wish you many more. I’m glad your grandma told you where to have a great career!

Imagine That – Bosses CAN Increase Your Happiness @ Work!

I recently came across an article, online, that talked about how your very own boss can help make you happier at your job.  In a nutshell, the article was about job seekers, who were surveyed, and ways that they felt that their bosses could help them achieve higher job satisfaction.  The most common issues were identified and the author of the article provided tips on who to approach the issue with your boss.

 I’ve been fortunate to have some pretty awesome bosses here at Eat’n Park whom have helped make me incredibly happy doing my job.  I’m not just saying that because they are reading this post either (Hi Jana!  Hi Kim!) – I’m making the statement because I mean it.

Before joining Eat’n Park, I also had some not so awesome bosses.  However, I learned just as much from them as I did my awesome bosses.  All of my experiences, good and bad, helped shape me into the manager that I wanted to be.

The article that I read got me thinking – I’ve had a pretty good career with Eat’n Park so far – are the tips that the author provides realistic?  The following issues and tips are the ones that jumped out at me the most:

Issue:  Career Advancement
How to Approach Your Boss:  When it comes to career advancement, let your boss know that you want to acquire more skills through internal or external training.  Research courses that will help your improve in your role or allow you to have more flexibility in moving up the corporate ladder.  Typically, a company has money allotted for employee training, so it never hurts to ask.
(Thompson, How Your Boss Can Help You Be Happier at Your Job).
Crystal Says:  This tip is very realistic.  For example, Eat’n Park provides training classes to it’s team members to help make them more effective and more educated when it comes to duties related with their position.  You name it – we most likely have a training class for it.  I’ve taken advantage of as many of the training classes as possible and it, for sure, has helped me advance my career.  If there is a specific skill that you are looking to enhance or a specific skill that you are looking to learn?  ASK your boss to teach it to you or point you in the direction of the person who can.  It never hurts to take on additional job responsibilities to enhance your current skill set or to build it.  You never know when opportunity may knock – so why not be ready for it.

Issue:  Lack of Respect for Your Position
How to Approach Your Boss:  Sometimes a boss, especially one who was never in your position, may not understand what you do or may think you can’t handle your tasks without supervision.  To avoid a micromanager, be proactive in looping him in at every step along the way.  Also be transparent about your tasks, and share your hurdles or successes so he is fully aware of the value you bring to the organization.
(Thompson, How Your Boss Can Help You Be Happier at Your Job).
Crystal Says:  I find this also to be very realistic.  In addition to the above tip – I also learned very early on, during manager training with my Training General Manager, that ‘I don’t know’ is not an acceptable answer.  Yes.  There will be times where you really DON’T know the answer, but there are a lot better ways to say it.  “I’m uncertain why X occurred, but let me look into it and I will follow up with you immediately.”  Saying ‘I don’t know’ constantly can make it seem like you have no idea what’s going on around you and it can even make it appear that you don’t even really care.  That can also attribute to lack of respect given to you.  You don’t always need to know all of the answers, but you do need to know where to find them when someone asks.

Issue: You Boss Doesn’t Trust You or Let You Do Your Job Your Way
How to Approach Your Boss:  If you have ideas on how you can be more effective or efficient at you job, present them to your boss.  In most cases, you do have a choice in how to do your job, but unless you share your ideas with you boss, chances are he will have you do things his way.  Meet to discuss what your manager’s expectations are and if success can still be achieved through your methods.  Or consider meeting him halfway.  By showing your boss that you can be successful doing things your way, your boss will become more trusting of your capabilities.
(Thompson, How Your Boss Can Help You Be Happier at Your Job).
Crystal Says:  Again, I find this to be very realistic advice, and good advice at that.  I would like to add that if you do try things your way, and they don’t work out or cause a problem, OWN. IT.  Take accountability for whatever happened and fix the problem right away.  Then, brainstorm with your boss about what went right, what didn’t and how a similar situation can be avoided in the future.  Chances are – your boss has some experience… and with experience comes a little bit of wisdom.  Your boss is a great resource to have.

Until next time…


Thompson, J.  (2012).  How Your Boss Can Help You Be Happier at Your Job [Blog Post].  Retrieved from How Your Boss Can Help You Be Happier at Your Job

Opportunity is Knocking!

You never know when opportunity is going to come a knocking. So you better be ready!

I recently attended our annual scholarship reception. It was a beautiful thing. All of the awardees shared their hopes and their dreams. It was great to be in a place filled with such promise. The awardees were ready when opportunity came knocking this year. They filled out all of the necessary scholarship paperwork. I’m sure it wasn’t fun to complete the paperwork, but it was just something that had to be done. They were making a plan for their future. They knew which school they wanted to attend and what they wanted to study. They wanted to grab that brass ring and they don’t mind a little financial help in order to it.

The awardees took advantage of the opportunity when they RSVP “YES!” to theinvitation to the annual scholarship reception. You never know who is going to be in attendance at an even or who you are going to meet once you are there.  This year, the awardees got to mix and mingle with the President & CEO,  & Chief People Officer and all of the District Managers and make connections with them.

These folks took advantage of an opportunity just by doing a great job. The scholarships were awarded, partially, based on their bosses’ recommendations. Basically, the scholarship winners had to be skillfully performing their jobs and getting along with their fellow team members.  They also had to have good grades as well as be involved in their community.

Here is my advice to you. Get out there and take advantage of an opportunity!  Meet and connect with as many folks as you can. You never know how you can help them or how they can help you. Be smart and take advantage of networking opportunities as often as possible.

Team Appreciation & Service Awards MAKE US SMILE!

Back in April we featured an interview with District Manager, Keith Lester. During the interview, Keith talked about his memories of Eat’n Park’s first ever Team Member Appreciation Day back when he was the General Manager at the Uniontown location.

If you haven’t read the interview yet, you can check it out here: Team Member Appreciation from a District Manager’s Perspective

This year, Jana and I, were the Corporate Support Center team members assigned to work at the Uniontown location for Team Member Appreciation Day.  Even though I have been with Eat’n Park for five years – and working at the CSC for three of them – this was my FIRST ever Team Member Appreciation Day.  I was excited to get back into the restaurant to appreciate the team.  Especially, the Uniontown team, because it was the restaurant where I spent the first two years of my career as a Manager with Eat’n Park.  I was also really looking forward to celebrating my 5 year service award with the team who became my Eat’n Park family.

Jana and I both came to the CSC by way of operations, but we promptly learned how quickly you forget tasks that were once part of every day life.  Jana spent time working in the kitchen learning how to make some of our new menu items, learning how to ice and face mini Smiley cookies and learning how to make smoothies.  I spent my time helping out in the prep department – plucking, what felt like, endless flats of strawberries and weighing up various products for use in the kitchen later that day.  I also helped face Smiley cookies and Jana, Shirley (the Baker) and I taught each other our own personal techniques to get the ‘perfect’ face on the cookie.

The best part of the day was the Service Award celebration.  Team members who are celebrating their 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years of service are recognized during these awards.  The Uniontown General Manager, Kim, really puts a lot of thought, and heart, into the service awards each year.  Kim picks a different theme every year for the awards – this year the theme was “Awards with Friends.”  (A spin on the ‘Words with Friends’ game that many play on their phones and online.)  Mindy, the Assistant Manager, and her Food Team, also put a lot of heart into the food that is served at the celebration.

During the award presentation each team member has their moment in the spotlight and is recognized.  A funny story or two may also be shared!  Jana commented that it was cool to see how many team members came to the service award celebration to see their fellow coworkers receive their service award.  It really is a family restaurant.

Until next time…