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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

This Story About a Stranger Helping a Drive-Thru Worker Change Careers Will Make You Smile

Jackie and Jennifer
Zinc Insurance

If you were raised right (or, hope to be liked by others), you know that politeness and kindness go a long way in life. Say, holding the door for a stranger, or offering to carry someone’s groceries to their car, or even going as far as buying someone’s child a plane ticket (OK, you don’t have to do that).

But these are the kinds of moments that warm our hearts, remind us to smile, and quite frankly, make us believe in humanity. And every once in a while, they lead to something amazing.

Recently, I came across the story of Jackie, an employee at Zinc Insurance, and Jennifer, who worked at a drive-thru at Taco Bell, and it was one of those stories that gave me faith that being good really does pay off.

According to the post that Jackie published on LinkedIn, she would occasionally grab lunch at Taco Bell, where she encountered Jennifer, who was always friendly and accommodating. So, when a customer service position opened up at her company, Jackie actually recommended Jennifer for the job:

Every time I went through the drive-thru, Jennifer was busy multi-tasking—taking orders, organizing those orders, taking payment, and more. She was always smiling, patient, genuine, empathetic, hardworking, professional, and never got my order wrong, ever. I would think to myself that although she was great at what she was doing, her customer service skills were so on point that someone should scoop her up and give her a chance at something else. When the CSR position opened up, I couldn’t get her out of my head, so I got with my counterpart to let her know what I was thinking. Turns out she knew of Jennifer and felt the same. We talked about how awesome that particular Taco Bell was because of the girl in the drive-thru and agreed that we should approach her. So we ran the idea past Seth, Zinc’s owner, and he told us to go for it—so here we are.

After reading this, I couldn’t help but reach out to both Jennifer and Jackie to get the full story on this amazing career change. And yes, it does get more heartwarming.

For starters, Jennifer had no ulterior motives in being nice. In fact, she tells me that she never thought her stellar customer service would lead to another job:

Though it was part of my job to be friendly and helpful to all customers (this is highly valued at Taco Bell), I think it’s also a part of who I am. So I guess it was somewhat natural for me to be that way with everyone. It does feel good to be recognized for your hard work, but I didn’t really expect any special praise or acknowledgment for doing what I felt I should be doing. Yet, for someone to notice—and to think you can leave that kind of impression—it’s an added incentive to always do your best because you just never know who’s watching and how it might turn out. The outcome is good either way, but sometimes it can be better than you imagined. It was for me!

She’d been considering a career change for a while, but the thing is that she hadn’t been sure what she wanted to do and her lack of previous experience made her hesitant to take the leap.

So when Jackie reached out about the job opportunity, “she was so positive and encouraging—it really caught my attention and gave me the push I needed and the confidence to get started,” says Jennifer. “So I overcame my hesitation and gave her a call. Looking back, it’s kind of cool how it worked out, and I’m very thankful.”

This story has a happy ending, too, in case you were wondering. Jennifer interviewed, got the job, and recently took her P&C Insurance exam—with the support of her office, who bought her a cake and a balloon when she passed.

But that’s not even my favorite part of this story (though I do love cake). It’s the lessons they both shared with me. For Jennifer, it was about overcoming the fear of making a career change:

Starting a new position or career can be unpredictable and overwhelming, for me it certainly was. This experience taught me that you have to believe in yourself enough to take that first step, even if you’re afraid, because some risks are worth taking. And, don’t let fear of failure get in the way, because even if you fail it’s a chance to grow—and that, I’m learning, is a big part of being successful.

And for Jackie, her story goes back to what I said earlier: “Treat people how you want to be treated, because you never know who’s taking note of your special qualities and spectacular skills.”

Of course, not every pleasant interaction you have with a stranger will turn into a job offer. Most encounters are usually just that—brief encounters that make you smile. But we all probably know horror stories of people who weren’t friendly to so-and-so, and that turned into a bad recommendation to a hiring manager, and then into a rejection letter. So go out of your way and make the effort to be nice, you never know which gesture can change your life.