Almost two years ago I opened my inbox to see an email from my now-employer inviting me to an impromptu interview for a new start-up that he was working on. After months and months of job searching, I thought,”Ohmigod, this is the opportunity of a lifetime!” At that point, I truly had no idea how right I was.
Going back a few years, when I got the phone call from my very first job out of college offering me a job, I was probably more excited. I was getting out of retail and accepting my first real 9-to-5 job. I had been job hunting for a couple of months and hadn’t gotten very far. It was an admin position at a commercial real estate firm in Atlanta, and it offered amazing first-timer benefits and starting salary. While I knew that being an administrative assistant wasn’t my lifelong career goal, I knew it was a good starting point, and that job taught me some important lessons. Here are a few of those lessons.
1.) Dress for the job you want to have. I know it’s a cliche, but with good reason – it’s true. As an administrative assistant to a higher-up admin, I was in charge of all the little things – picking up the mail, distributing the mail, fixing the busted copying machine, answering phones, packing up boxes of supplies to send across the country for conferences, and some of the most boring data-entry type tasks of all time. At the time, I thought, “I’m too good for this crap. Surely I can think of a better use of my time.” While true, it also reminded me that starting at the bottom builds character, and that if I wanted people to treat me like I was an integral part of the team, I needed to earn it. Dressing well, no matter what your position, shows your commitment to the team and to the company, and the managers will take note.
2.) Be the kind of manager you’d like to have. I think about this constantly in my daily interactions with my WebOps. My goal is to educate and empower them, and I try to do everything in my power to make sure they feel confident in their job so they can share that knowledge. I want them to feel comfortable talking to me about their daily struggles, in and out of the workplace. As my boss and mentor James says, “We’re not only growing a business, we’re growing people.” I love that.
3.) Steer clear of office politics. I don’t care how interesting the cat fight between two other admins in the office may seem, do yourself a favor and ignore it. If you can’t, enter at your own risk, because that shit can (and probably will) blow up in your face. The same goes for getting distracted by a pretty face (or several.) Just say NO.
4.) Blogging is fun. I started blogging on my lunch break as a way to break up the day and to practice my writing once I was out of school. My plan was to attend grad school and the writing would keep my mind sharp, but when that didn’t happen, I continued to blog and really enjoyed it. I’ve met a handful of blogger friends that I’m happy to call them REAL friends, even if we’ve never actually met. Little did I know at that point that my love for blogging would help me eventually land the most amazing job I’ve ever had.
5.) Fully-paid health benefits are a gift. Appreciate them. I didn’t realize how amazing fully-paid health benefits were until after I no longer had access to them. Especially more so when I was working from home slingin’ Pure Romance loot, Oscar and I had to purchase our own individual health insurance plan. The monthly premiums were CRAZY high and the benefits were pretty much shit, but it was the only thing we found that offered maternity. I couldn’t help but compare what we ended up paying for Grayson’s birth with what it would have cost us had I still been there, and Oscar had to remind me that “what-if’s” didn’t pay our bills. So if you have a job where even a part of your health insurance premiums are paid, be thankful. Be very thankful.
6.) Seek out the person you want to do good work for, and do it. Without playing favorites, there was one gentleman at my first job who was an absolute gem. He was kind, whip-smart and always greeted me with a smile. Seeing him in the office every now and then (he was actually retired, by still came by to visit) made the days that weren’t so great worthwhile, and when I was let go I thought about him a lot. Even if you’re surrounded by assholes, seek out the one person who makes the job worthwhile, and do it.
7.) Everyone works for an a-hole. I saved this one for last, because well, ain’t that the truth? Thankfully, I can safely say that I do NOT currently work for an a-hole. And to be fair, a handful of the men I used to work for were kind, generous and were great people to work for. But some? Some I wish I could send to the molten gold lake in Dante’s fourth circle of Hell because they didn’t care about anything except the next Ferrari, the next 5-star vacation, the next sack of money that would cross through their bank account. (One in particular had some other unsavory habits, like clipping his fingernails with the office door open, letting everyone hear the sound of the high-pitched “clink, clink, clink” over and over and OVER again.) However much of an a-hole he was, working for him made me realize that I never wanted to work for someone like that again.
Fast-forward 2 years to when I was emailing back and forth about a potential job opportunity with TrustWorkz after job- and soul-searching for months on end. I wanted the job so badly that I dreamed about it. I talked it to death, with my Mom, with Oscar, with my friends. They all agreed that it sounded like an amazing fit – but the only problem was that I wasn’t actually able to start until about 5 months after I’d originally talked to James due to budgetary constraints. After all, at that point, TrustWorkz was still a teeny tiny start-up (Four employees!) with an even tinier start-up budget. Now at 12 employees and growing, we have clients in 10 different states and all over Georgia, and aren’t slowing down anytime soon.
Ultimately, my first job made me realize how lucky I am to have the job that I have now. What lessons did you learn from your first real job, 9-to-5 or otherwise?