I have to be there at 9:15. I’ll shoot for 9:10 to be safe. It takes 30 minutes to get to the office according to Google Maps. Factor in 15 minutes of going the wrong way. I’ll need 45 minutes to get showered and ready. So I should get up at… uhhhhhhh… 7:40. I’ll set my alarm for 7:10, 7:20, 7:27, 7:32, and 7:38.
Just in case.
At 6:00 AM I was up and getting ready. I need to make a good first impression. Clothes: Jeans or chinos? Dark or light? What matches with grey? Is this too wrinkly? What color shoes? Where’s my belt?
Chinos. Light. Orange. No. Black. Hanging in the closet, where I put it yesterday.
The walk was longer than expected. The humidity of New York City took no prisoners this morning, and I was born with sweat glands similar in strength and size to Old Faithful. I felt sweat beading on my forehead and the center of my back. No no no, not today. Don’t get sweaty.
Thirty minutes and one shirt soaked through on both sides later, I made it to my building. Right on time. I called up.
“Hi, it’s Dan Whitman.”
“Hi Dan. I’ll be right down.”
“Ok! Great! See you soo-”
The phone hung up before I could get out my last exclamation point. I fanned myself frantically, hoping to cool myself down to the point that when I entered the office my new coworkers would think that I got sprayed with a hose rather than caught in an isolated thunderstorm.
My escort arrived to take me up to the office. In the elevator, my new coworker and I struck up conversation.
“Where are you from?” he asked me.
“Originally right outside Harrisburg but I lived in Pittsburgh for the last five years,” I spoke with excitement, entirely too quickly. “I went to school at Pitt and then worked there for one year before moving here. Well, actually, I lived in LA for two months after school interning and then went back to Pittsburgh and then here.”
“Yeah!” Two quiet seconds. “What about you?”
“The DC area. Virginia. We used to drive to Philly and back for a cheesesteak and see who could make it there faster.”
“HAHA NO WAY that’s really funny haha did it take long to get there?” What am I doing? That’s not funny. That wasn’t even a joke.
“Like four hours or so.” We exited the elevator. “Here, this is our office.”
He showed me to my desk, then took me around to meet everyone else. I remembered every third name. Those that I couldn’t remember, I made up. I later found out that there is no Shelly, Brian, or Alyssa in my office, nor was there ever.
I walked around the office in a way that can be only described as snake-like, contorting my body into completely unnatural positions so that my new coworkers weren’t able to see the Great Salt Lake continuing to form on my back.
“There should be some paperwork for you to fill out sitting on your desk, and I think HR will reach out to you for orientation sometime soon.”
“Ok! Awesome! Thanks!!” Why am I still talking like this?
I took my seat and thumbed mindlessly through the paperwork sitting on my desk. Looking up, I glanced around at everyone else in the office, working hard on this or that. It was then that I came to the realization that I had no idea what I was doing.
The first day of a new job can be brutal. Especially the first day of your first real, salaried, I-don’t-know-anyone-or-what-I’m-doing-is-it-hot-in-here-where’s-the-bathroom-I-NEED-TO-PEE-RIGHT-NOW job. You’re aware of everything you do, from the way you talk and shake hands down to the way you sit in a meeting or walk to the copier.
While everyone seems to be doing important work, you’re setting up your voicemail and hoping that no one can hear you record and rerecord your greeting seven times. While your neighbor has three computer screens with different Excel sheets open, you’re deciding on the non-alphanumeric character to end your password with (the dollar sign, obviously, because you’re there to make money). And while your coworker is typing frantic emails about things that need to be done “ASAP BECAUSE IT WAS NEEDED YESTERDAY” you’re figuring out which height is just right on your desk chair.
Note: You are never able to actually get it at that height and settle for just a little too low.
You’ll need to learn a whole new language that is spoken in your office and your office only. “The Q3 BSRs are done except our major markets don’t include TRPs.” You’re lucky to catch an entire sentence without an acronym. In high school we’re told that learning a foreign language makes us more marketable to employers. In reality they should be teaching us how to rattle off arbitrary combinations of letters and numbers that sound like they could have significance.
Show excitement about your newfound employment, but don’t overdo it. The right amount of excitement shows that you’re ambitious and eager to learn. Too much excitement shows that you’re really, really annoying.
You have a weird side. Everyone does. Do not let yours loose on day 1. Keep the joke about the shape of that person’s mole in your head. Don’t share your story about catching a squirrel and keeping it as a pet right now. Unlike at a bar, the first impression you make in the office matters. Similarly, your coworkers are not your friends (unless they are).
Most importantly, though, remember that the first day normally kind of sucks. It’s slow, awkward, and uncomfortable. You’ll remember every minute of it – every interaction, every question, every moment you’re aware of yourself – until the next time you have a first day. But don’t worry; no one else will remember a thing.
Unless you’re really sweaty.
After finishing my pile of Human Resources documents, I uncomfortably dove into sexual harassment orientation training. I went to the website and hit start.
Oh good, it’s a video. This won’t be weird.
“Welcome to sexual harassment orientation,” the voice stated over my headphones. “This one hour interactive video will guide you through the policies and procedures your company has in place to prevent and punish sexual harassment in the workplace.”
HOLD THE PHONE. One hour? Interactive? I’m quitting this job.
One hour later I was afraid to even look at my female coworkers. I realized the day was nearing its end. I wasn’t sure what to do, so after rearranging my desk three more times and refreshing my inbox, I packed up my things to leave.
“Bye Alyssa!” I said to not-Alyssa as I headed out the door.
I reflected on my day in the elevator. Not bad. I met a lot of people, got my ducks in a row, and, most importantly, started a job I think I’m going to be happy in. I’m going to do well here. I’m excited – I feel like I there’s a promising horizon ahead of me, and this is the ship to get me there. Things are going to be great.
Feeling like a million dollars, I exited the elevator, strolled through the lobby, and headed towards the doors. When I stepped out into the sunlight, I turned right and walked towards my subway stop. Which, as it turns out, is not to the right, but to the left, turning my thirty-minute commute into and hour and fifteen minutes.
Happy Day 1.