While we’re all waiting for the world to spin back on its axis and people aren’t getting sick or afraid of breathing in public, I thought it might be fun to kill some time thinking back to one of life’s most uncomfortable episodes–that horrible first day on the job.
You know how it is…you don’t know where anything is, everyone in the office is giving you the eye wondering if you’re OK or a jerk or if you’re gonna try to steal their job or be an ass-kisser or slacker. Your main challenge is delicately asking where the washroom is and where the office supplies are hidden. Some wiseass gives you directions to the washroom, but after you memorize every turn and finally find the door as you’re about to explode, you discover the schmuck didn’t add that you need a key to enter. Sound familiar?
I’ll start with a couple of my most memorable/horrible first days, and then I invite you to join the fun by adding yours in the comments.
The date was November 30, 1981. My first day at CNN in Atlanta. I was hired as one of the first producers to launch their second network which was known at the time as CNN2. It later morphed into Headlines News and now HLN.
I had been working as a producer, reporter, anchor at KGUN in Tucson, Arizona. If you know anything about Arizona, it’s extremely laid back. No one gets dressed up, much. Especially producers.
Well…I saunter into the crazy, busy CNN headquarters on my first day figuring I’d wear my “producer clothes.” In Arizona that meant casual pants, an open-necked button down shirt and comfortable shoes. Psych. I look around and everyone else is wearing serious business clothes. Women wearing dresses. Men in dress shirt, ties, jackets, polished, black shoes. I’m already marked as a rube from out west. My boss kindly takes me aside and whispers, “you may have noticed there’s a bit of a dress code.” Well..yeah…would have been nice if someone told me in advance. But that wasn’t the worst thing about my first day. That would happen momentarily.
The boss said we should go out onto the newsroom floor and learn how the national assignment desk worked. So I go up to the first guy I see on the desk. He’s a big, balding, bearded volcano about to erupt. I introduce myself and ask if he could take a moment to explain how things work. Cue the eruption.
“YOU WANNA KNOW HOW THE FUCKIN’ DESK WORKS! WATCH THIS!!!!,” he screams at me. He picks up the tie-line to the DC bureau and starts screaming at the producer on the other end using the most vile language one could muster. This goes on for about 20 seconds. He slams down the phone, glares at me and screams, “THAT’S HOW THE FUCKIN’ ASSIGNMENT DESK WORKS. NOW GET THE FUCK OUTTA MY FACE!!!!” I took that as a most instructional lesson, took my leave and, you know, I never got the guy’s name or saw him again, which was just fine. Boss later asks me if I got the lay of the land on the national desk. I told him about the “guidance” I was given and just grinned, replying “yeah, that’s pretty much how it works.”
First day number 2. August 23, 2005. My first day at what was then DaimlerChrysler and now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. It was my first corporate job. Hired away from The Detroit News to ghost write and manage a blog for the head of corporate communications. Cool job.
I’m led up to the sixth floor PR offices at corporate HQ and plopped in my new boss’s cube for all the first day stuff. First thing I was told was to look at my new badge.
“See your badge? It’s green. That means you’re a contractor not a REAL employee. REAL employees have blue badges.” I feel welcome already. Then the next indignity.
“Come with me. Let’s look out the window. You see those parking decks close to the building. You can’t park there. Those are for REAL employees. See that surface lot..somewhere beyond the horizon? That’s where contractors park. So that’s where YOU park. It’s not too long a walk…except when it’s raining, snowing or the wind is howling. Then…it sucks. Welcome to the company!!”
I became a REAL employee about 13 months later but always hid my blue badge. It was out of consideration for the other green badged contractors who were still trudging into the office from the corporate back forty. They would also call me bad names.
phone’s been driving me crazy all weekend. Every few minutes the damn thing’s been binging with updates from the NFL draft. They scream stuff like, “Detroit picks Louie Schmeckingford of Dreck Tech as Left Nipple!” I’m happy for Mr. Schmeckingford for landing a job but truly, I don’t care. Then…bing, bing bing, bing! “The 49ers choose Dick Wad in the fourth round as backup waterboy!” Swell. I open the story to learn that Sir Wad distinguished himself in the Big Billion Conference by breaking all sorts of speed records for water procurement for sweaty slabs of two-legged beef.
I get it. Among fans and Fantasy Football geeks, the draft is almost as important as the the day they had their overbite corrected.
Then I got to thinking that maybe I’m the one who has it all wrong. What’s the draft anyway, but companies flush with money, choosing young people to join their ranks in hopes of furthering their success.
How ingenious! Why is this process limited to sports teams? It seems like a draft is a perfect way to bolster any team.
I see it now. CNBC pre-empts regular programming for the First Corporate Talent Pool Draft.
“Hi, this is Joe Kernan with Becky Quick. Business services firm KPMG has the first pick, earned via a trade with Pricewatershouse Cooper for two insider trading secrets.”
“Joe, KPMG has their eye on Barlow Biteme, who graduated first in his accounting class and won acclaim for his thesis, “Don’t Jump Off the Ledger.”
“Right Becky. But to land him, they’ll have to cough up a huge signing bonus, a corner office and free tanning sessions just ahead of the ‘season’ in the Hamptons.”
“Who wouldn’t pay that, Joe, for a guy who not only crunches numbers, but absolutely chews them up and spits them out just the way the CEO imagined them.”
“So true, Becky! One story going around has Biteme cooking the books so well at his college fraternity, his brothers nicknamed him ‘The Chef!’ No doubt, KPMG can’t wait to serve the SEC what Biteme whips up.”
“Right, Joe! Let’s move on to the second pick. That’s comes from Deloitte.Touche.”
“Well, Becky, those pencil pushers are counting on landing Flo Nase from Wharton.”
“For sure, Joe. She’s was known there as “The Eraser.” In fact, Nase is so adept at making poor performance metrics go away, her Theory of Imaginary Computation won the top prize at this year’s Conference of Complicits.”
“Ha! That’s amazing Becky! One source tells me one of Nase’s favorite funnies is the way she plays dumb when someone challenges one of her audits by exclaiming, ‘audit? Oh..dat!”
“No wonder she’s a top pick, Joe!”
“Indeed, Becky! Don’t you just love this? Folks, we’ll be back with second round picks in a moment, after this word from upstart Wall Street brokers Questionable Quotes.”