My First Job

My first job is one that I won’t forget for a variety of reasons. It is not because it was my first job. It is not because of the crazy owner who called all of my clients to confirm that my call reports were accurate or because he screamed at me when I asked if I could get a computer. It is not even because of my officemate who used to make up stories about the inflatable panda on top of the Panda Express across the street.

It is because of all these things and so much more that this job sticks out in my mind. I was in my early twenties and fresh out of school. I didn’t know much about working in an office and was probably a bit naive about office politics. It never occurred to me that there were people who weren’t working there for the good of the company.

I just assumed that it was a team effort. If we all worked together we would be more successful and surely more success meant more good things for all of us. It was a nice theory.

But it was just a theory. It didn’t take into account that the two men who owned the company had a combined age of 187 or that their best years and those of the company took place twenty years before I came on board.

It didn’t take into account that the company was happy to pay for houses and cars for the children of the owners, regardless of whether they actually showed up to work.

When they hired me I was told that I would have the opportunity to use everything I learned in college, to make use of my degree. They painted a rosy picture of a place that had a great future. It was a small company with big opportunity.

Back in those days I hadn’t yet developed a good nose for determining truth versus fiction. When I look back now it is easy to see how they made promises that were unlikely to ever come true.

They didn’t lie to me, but unless the family members decided to go find other sources of employment there wasn’t anywhere to go. And let’s be real, if you could surf in the morning, take a long lunch, nap and then go home at five would you look for a new job? Probably not.

It took a while, but I began to figure it out. I realized that this joint wasn’t going to be the only place I worked. Initially it wasn’t easy to accept. My father worked for one company. He held different positions there, but it was one company.

So the idea that I wasn’t going to be able to follow his example bothered me. I felt a bit like a failure. That may sound ridiculous, but it is true. My dad was my role model. He went to work, day in and day out. Always supported his family. He didn’t retire until I was in my thirties.

Many years have passed since I held that job. And in that time I have worked at a number of places in a number of different positions. It doesn’t faze me anymore. It is the way things are and part of why I got involved in a variety of side projects.

One of these days I’ll have write about those. There are some good stories.

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6 Comments

  1. Jack February 7, 2008 at 7:53 am

    TD,

    Actually my dad and I have the same size shoe.

    Z,

    Oh yes.

    Woman,

    Work stories can be really interesting.

    Debbie,

    It is so important for employers to do what you describe.

    Shira,

    That was pretty thorough.

  2. Shira Salamone February 6, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    I’ve told my son my impression of the rules of the current employment market:

    1) The days when a person could stay in one job until retirement are gone. Employers often feel no sense of obligation toward their employees, and have been known to fire people who are within months of retirement, leaving them stranded for life without health-care benefits and/or with a reduced or non-existent pension. Save your own retirement money, sonny.

    2) You should stay in a job just long enough to look reliable, but not so long that a future employer might consider you too set in your ways to be flexible enough to change and learn something new. Two years is probably the minimum, five the maximum.

    3) You may found yourself being punished, rather than rewarded, for experience and/or expertise. The more experienced and/or expert you become, the higher your salary expectations–until you price yourself out of the market. In the final analysis, an employer will often prefer to hire someone who’ll work for less than someone who knows what he or she is doing. (Therefore . . . )

    3) Don’t be surprised if you have to change careers completely at least once because of employee-market forces, other economic forces, and/or changes in technology.

    Did I miss anything?

  3. Debbie February 6, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    I think we learn a lot from our first jobs, our first employers. My very first job was when I was 14 years old. I played piano at funerals for $5.00. I also worked during the summers cleaning class rooms at local schools. The summer before I graduated from high school, I worked as the secretary for Shiloh National Military Park.

    From those teenage jobs I learned quite a bit, but once I got away from home, had a variety of jobs while going to school, then putting hubby through school.

    One thing we both learned and swore an oath to … was that we would treat our employees with respect, as valued people and friends, that we would pay them a decent wage (or as decent a ways as we could afford). I’m happy to say we made good on that promise to ourselves.

    Nothing like being treated like slaves in the workplace, to help one commit to do better.

    Debbie Hamilton
    Right Truth

  4. WomanHonorThyself February 6, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    thanks for sharing!…everyone has work stories..always interesting~!

  5. Z February 6, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Isn’t it interesting how we are lied to in our first jobs????

  6. therapydoc February 6, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Surely you walk in your father’s shoes, and have a few different pairs of your own (more than a few) in your closet.

    I know, block the metaphor, but if the shoe fits.

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