I love it when I see them on their first day.
They are the young ones, the newbies. They’re fresh in the world and just starting out in the working world.
I love the look in their eyes; partly intimidated, partly unsure of what to expect and partly nervous, partly hopeful, partly wondering what the people they work with will look like or talk like. They’re green to the world, brand new.
This is an interesting place to be. This was me once
and this was you once too.
We tend to forget this sometimes. We forget that we didn’t know much of anything and at the same time, we find ourselves losing our patience the same as others once lost their patience with us. But maybe we’re a little better, or at least we try to be.
Ah, I can remember my ideas of hopefulness. I can remember the carrot which my first few employers dangled before me; as if to say that I can be wealthy too.
I can remember the ideas of me trying to find my way in the working world. But more, I can remember the basic discomforts of being a kid in a room full of grownups and veterans who had more to fight for.
First, I want to point out that I was too young to understand the difference between arrogance and confidence.
Safe to say that I was trying to fit. Safe to say that I was trying to act the part.
I did act the part to the best of my ability.
I acted the way I thought I was supposed to act.
I love it when I see them starting out.
They are the new hope and the next generation. Yes, there are times when I shake my head. There are times when I see them and wonder what their future will be like. I wonder who will stick with it and who will quit at the first sight of rejection or disciplinary functions.
I know that things change on a generational scale and that today’s techniques and communication are not the same as the times when I first wore a suit and tie.
Hell, I came in young.
This was back before emails were the main source of communication. There was no such thing as Zoom or Webex. We used fax machines. People actually spoke on the phone. There was no texting. We had in-person meetings and if you missed them, then you missed out.
We didn’t have search engines like Google. We didn’t have cell phones like we do today.
We certainly didn’t have the same access to information as we do now – or better yet, would it be safe to say that we don’t have the same access to misinformation as we do now?
I never pretend to understand things that are outside of my wheelhouse. I don’t act like I know or that “I get it.”
This is not my way of doing things. However, along with the differences between the generations, I do notice the similarities that come with the new hires.
I love it.
I love hearing them talk about what they know.
I don’t judge.
I don’t argue.
Instead, I reflect on the times when I was them.
I remember the areas which I thought that I knew better.
Boy, was I wrong.
I had so much to learn.
But learning takes humility – and that’s what I needed to learn the most.
I can remember entering rooms with people who were seasoned at their job. They had decades worth of valid experience yet here I am trying to impress them with what I know.
I see this has not changed so much, only slightly.
I see the newer generations as mainly quiet which is only because they text their thoughts instead of speak about them
But this is not always true.
I listen and think about the times when I would talk and the older generation would shake their heads at me.
I’d ask them, “What?”
They’d tell me “You’ll see.”
It’s amazing how many times people bang their heads upon the same things until they learn their lessons.
It is also amazing how a person can grow and then one day; A light goes on, like “DING!”
They find themselves in a trainer or manager’s position and that’s when they look back and go, “I get it now!
I often wonder what I must have sounded like when I was one of the newbies.
I wonder if I was this obvious to the people who trained me.
At the same time, I wonder if this was the same reason why some of them were intimidated.
By the way, this is not to say that I was intimidating by any means.
However, the idea that I was willing and moving fast; or that I was eager to please and be accommodating, or that I had energy and that I would do my best to be charismatic because hey, how else does anybody get ahead these day?
This was enough to make senior colleagues look back and say, “Slow down there, kid. There’s people in front of you who need to feed their family.”
There are times when I see them, fresh from college, untested, inexperienced and unaware of the reality check that is about to come their way.
I’ve watched some of them, young and clever, and still, they had no idea what they were about to see.
They had no clue what they were about to learn or experience.
But ready of not – here it comes, life on a popsicle stick!
Don’t like the flavor?
Stick it out or go home.
I was them once.
I was thinking that I wanted to make a stance.
I wanted to make a statement so I put on my best suit and tie.
But the best clothes do not make for the best experience.
No, and to be honest, I can remember the day I dressed the part for the very first time.
I swore I was dressed right. I thought I was looking pretty dapper
(even if I do say so myself. And I do . . .)
I went into the office of my new first job as a grown man. This was a real sales job in a real company that had been in the garment business for more than 40 years. No one came here for the food and friends. No one was here to win a popularity contest.
I sat with the owner on my very first day.
Needless to say, I was nervous. So nervous in fact that I misspelled an easier word. What did I misspell?
The word “satin.” What did I write down instead?
I wrote “Satan” to which this man perked up in his chair and scoffed, “You don’t know how to spell satin?”
I wanted to shrivel away and disappear.
This was my brand new boss!
He introduced the product line and explained how they’re manufactured.
The goods he produced were identification items such as woven labels and content labels that go inside of clothing.
All of this was imported and manufactured elsewhere; including his Made in USA labels, which I thought was ironic.
The introduction lasted for about ten minutes and then he sent me home.
I asked, “Excuse me?”
He told me that I need to dress appropriately and that I should buy better suits and ties.
I left deflated . . .
I felt stupid.
I felt like an idiot.
But I learned.
I remember thinking that as a grown person no one would ever scold me like this,
I never thought that as an adult, someone would speak to me as if I was in the principal’s office in grade school.
But guess what . . . this is life
on a popsicle stick.
Don’t like the taste of it
Tough . . .
I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.
I don’t know if I thought I’d survive this job.
I don’t know if I thought I would ever succeed.
I definitely did not think that I would say there for six years.
But I did.
I don’t know what I knew, per se.
But I knew that I had a lot to learn.
(And I still do.)
I love when they start out.
The newbies fresh from the box.
I love how they talk and how they try to show you what they know.
However, I have made a life-changing decision that has helped me as a person and as a professional.
Rather than correct anyone at any age or in any position, I listen and I learn.
I gather their understanding and learn to work within their parameters.
I do not promote shame or laugh and tell anyone, “You’ll see.”
I don’t shake my head at people.
(At least I try not to. But like you and the rest of the world, I do have my off days.)
Instead, I listen and I learn.
But more, I allow the unwinding sense of nervous energy to take its course.
This way we can get somewhere. I don’t see how promoting the feelings of idiocy can help someone navigate their way in their new life. However, in my case, this was a strong motivator to never feel so humbled again.
Ah, the newbies . . .
You’ll hear them say, “I’m sorry. I never did anything like this before.”
And I’ll say,
“That’s why we’re here to work together. This way we both learn.”
“This way we can both learn new ways of doing things.”
When I was that person who walked in the door for the first time, do you know what I was thinking?
I was thinking I wanted them to like me.
I was thinking I wanted them to think they made the right choice –
By hiring me!
I was thinking I hope they don’t think I’m an idiot or that I’m stupid.
In other fields of work, I was thinking that if they don’t like me, I’ll have to deal with the humiliation of not even lasting through the probationary period. And that just sucks!
I was thinking that life comes with adjustments that only experience can teach. That no matter how I walk or slick back my hair or wear a nice tie, life is learned through the experience of living.
I am mindful of this now which is why I try to humanize life while working at the same time.
I wasn’t thinking this way back then.
No. I was thinking that I had to dress up and show up.
I was thinking that I had to play the role.
Or, I was trying to “Fake it, until you make it,” or so they told me.
It took decades for me to understand how completely useless that way of thinking is.
I remember an older colleague telling me, “Just be you. It’s what got you the job in the first place.”
At the time, I was thinking what if that wasn’t enough?
But it’s always enough.
That’s why I love seeing the new generation.
I love watching the new hires when they come through the door.
I love seeing who stays and who gives up on themselves.
This shows me that yes, times have changed. Fashion has definitely changed and the fact that I still struggle to find the right icons when swiping the screen on my cell phone, I know that technology has changed.
But one suggestion remains true:
Just be you. That’s what got you the job in the first place.
So, to answer the question: What the hell was I thinking when I walked through the doorway of my first real job?
Looking back, I’m thinking that I was overthinking
And overthinking . . .
Now that is something that’ll never go out of style.