First days have a certain nostalgia to them. Your first day of school, your first date, your first job. The thought of starting something new, and the possibility it brings of not knowing what’s coming next because anything can happen inspires us. Every first day I’ve ever had I look back at fondly. It’s like once you’re in the middle of something, the beginning means that much more to you, because you can’t imagine it any other way. They have such a nostalgia to them we basically forget what they were truly like. And first days are truly terrible. This was mine.
At only 8:55 a.m., it was as if she had already lived an entire day. At least lived an entire day of emotions. Upon hearing her alarm go off at 5:00 a.m. sharp, she was already exhausted, after waking up four times the night before from fear of accidentally hitting the snooze, she was anything but well rested.
She took a shower, put on her makeup, and blow-dried her hair. As soon as she put on the outfit she had already spent an hour deciding on, she immediately decided to take it off. The red shirt might be a little too rigid for a first impression, and she had heard that blue inspired trust. She tried on three more shirts before ultimately deciding on the top she originally rejected.
Having left with plenty of time to be early, she started to calm down once she got on the freeway. Until she saw the break lights starting way too soon. She felt the panic from having to drive in the carpool lane so as to not be slowed down by an accident that of course had to happen today (she would eventually learn that Monday mornings always held the worst traffic, a cruel fact the universe must take pleasure in). Ultimately, she thought ‘first day of work’ was a good enough excuse to be able to talk her way out of any police interaction. She continued to speed through the carpool lane.
After an extra twenty minutes of angst caused by those ‘other’ distracted drivers, she made it, ready for her first day in corporate America. As she walked into her building and passed a shoe shine stand, she felt a weird combination of over-confidence and vast under-preparedness.
As soon as she arrived in the lobby of her floor, she was greeted by her new manager. He introduced himself and told her to walk with him. They went down the elevator and out a back hallway at a pace that clearly indicated he had no appreciation for the four-inch heels she was wearing. She struggled to keep up without starting to sweat.
After a quick conversation about their college affiliations and two vanilla lattes later, they were walking back to the office. From what she could tell they went a completely different way back than the way they came, but her sense of direction was already completely thrown so there was no way to tell.
Her manager seemed nice enough and she was instructed to go into the conference room and wait for the Monday morning roll call meeting, which started promptly at 9 o’clock.
The other associates started to trickle in. They all looked like they were wearing different variations of the same uniform. Navy or black suit, patterned tie to match the pocket square, all of which was color-coordinated down to the monogrammed initials on the sleeve of their button downs, and of course the standard brown Italian leather shoes.
As the conference table became full and the meeting began, she realized she was the only girl in this room. Although she wasn’t expecting to walk into a sorority house when she took a job in finance, she wasn’t expecting… this.
A staunch and grumpy German man walked into the room and shut the door behind him. He began going around the table and asking for a rundown of the week prior. After the first few questions, it became clear that all of the pointed questions he was asking were to be for her benefit.
“How many days did you work last week?” he asked to each person individually.
“Six” was the standard answer given by everyone, except for one guy who was clearly not favored by the management in the room. A mental note she made to not get on their bad side.
“How many hours did you work last week?” was the next question posed to the table.
The answers varied slightly but all were within a range of 60 to 70 hours, roughly 10-13 hours a day.
His pointed questions eventually turned into a speech about what it takes to make it in this business. As stereotypical as it was to be told on your first day that it would mean long hours and working Saturdays and sacrificing personal plans for the betterment of your career, she was buying all of it. As someone who always got a certain high off of choosing to do things that were difficult, she felt excited to get started.
Before ending the meeting, he singled out one of the “top producers” in the room.
He was sitting nonchalantly, with enough gel in his hair to know that he spent at least 15 minutes too many fixing it in the morning. Throughout the meeting he had been half-engaged, alternating between feigning interest in what was being said and checking god knows what on his phone. It was clear he thought very highly of himself, but it was too soon to tell if he was someone she should respect or avoid being left alone with.
When asked how many new contracts he closed last week he responded with, “Twelve.”
The German man scoffed and said, “Wow, bud, I don’t know how you do it.”
To which Mr. Big Deal responded with, “Well..” He paused to lean back in his chair and take a breath before continuing, “it’s pretty simple, I just don’t let them say no.”
A statement that was quickly retorted with, “Are we still talking about work?”
The conference room erupted with laughter. As she started to nervously spin in her chair, she could tell she was blushing. She smiled, unsure which would make her look worse: to laugh and risk seeming crass or not to laugh and risk seeming uptight or boring. She chose to laugh a little bit, hoping it would come off as nice without making too big of an impression. A choice she would play back in her mind several times over the course of the day, wondering if it was the right choice.
As she was having this internal debate, Mr. Big Deal sat back in his chair smiling, clearly pleased with himself for his contribution to the morning meeting. She looked at him and saw this reaction, forcing herself to resist blatantly rolling her eyes.
After the meeting ended the room dispersed. A woman walked into the room. “Finally,” she thought, “another girl.” The girl introduced herself as one of the Executive Assistants, Alyssa. Instantly, she knew she would like her; she was the closest thing to the character “Donna” from Suits that she had ever met and she knew that they would be friends.
As they chatted Alyssa said, “Let me show you where you’ll be living” and giggled as she escorted her to her new desk.
She sat down and finally took stock of her new space, making mental notes of what pictures she should bring in to brighten it up. As she reviewed her schedule for her first week, she finally started to relax and feel settled. Finally, she didn’t feel the eyes of her new coworkers trying to assess her and for the first time all morning she stopped wondering whether or not she was making a good impression. She began making notes on her employment packet, as making lists always helped soothe her nerves. Just as she was about to get up for her next meeting, her new desk mate sat down: Mr. Big Deal. .