This week, I thought about my first day at new jobs as I watched the President and Vice President be sworn in for their new roles. The purpose of creating a resume and a LinkedIn profile, then going to interviews is, after all, to reach the first day of work in a new position.
My career has encompassed three distinct kinds of first day experiences. They included:
- The Federal Government,
- A position at a corporate New York City Contractor,
- Roles in not-for-profit organizations.
The first day of work at a public agency with structured “onboarding” processes was the most memorable because new employees took an Oath of Office followed by a bewildering ream of paperwork. Less structured organizations “threw me in” after having me sign payroll forms.
Onboarding at the Federal Government
It brought back memories of my first day as a Federal employee when I watched the President and Vice President take their oaths of office. According to a Federal News Network article, the Oath of Office for federal civil service employees reads as follows: “I, ___, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
This is probably the exact Oath I took on May 19, 1980—things like that don’t change much in the Federal Government. My wife recalls taking the Oath on her first day as a civilian employee at a military induction center.
Paperwork to be completed after the Oath included a massive security clearance form. My inaugural parade must have been cancelled to make time for the process.
The first day had its share of embarrassing moments—something else I’m certain many people can relate to. For example, I recall receiving my first assignment memo. It was cc’d to “Chron,” among other addressees. I asked my manager who “Mr. Chron” was. He showed me the Regional Manager’s Chronological File!
Corporate-style onboarding: Save the paperwork you receive on day one.
Joining a business organization was a new experience for me after I worked for the government and several not-for-profit organizations. Most job seekers are aware that it is important to save original agreements you sign on or before the first day of your new job at a corporation. Fortunately, I saved my offer letter.
The hiring manager agreed on a salary with me before my first day. A letter, signed by the CEO, arrived at 5 pm on Friday and I started the following Monday. The salary quoted on the letter was lower than the salary I agreed to accept.
Of course, I went right to the Assistant Director Monday morning and asked for a correction. The answer I received was that the difference would be paid in the end-of-year bonus stated in the letter.
The bonus was not forthcoming at the end of the year. It probably is not surprising that the Assistant Manager that hired me was long gone, and so was the CEO. The current manager took a copy of the letter, asked me to fill out some forms, and then told me the balance would be in my next check. It was not. Several days later my manager told me the forms had been lost. We went around again, and this time, I was told “the letter is not authentic.” I found the original with the CEOs original signature. My manager submitted a form again, and this time I was told she submitted the wrong form. Eventually, the Company paid. Clearly, I would have gotten nothing if I had not retained the letter.
The first day at not-for-profit organizations can be more unstructured.
My first job was at a non-profit organization after I left the government. The first day was different than at the government or at a corporate job. For example, I sat down at my desk and then asked my supervisor for the employee handbook and credentials for the computer network. He gave me neither. There was no employee handbook, and he did not know how to use the computer. After a few weeks, I was assigned to the HR office, and asked to write the employee handbook.
About two years later, I went to work at another non-profit. Once again, I was given an incorrect salary. The person that hired me worked for a partner organization and did not know the pay scale. The Project Director that did have the authority to set my hours and wage for the part-time job apologized and adjusted my hours to compensate. Ultimately, she put me on the books as a full-time employee. I stayed until the program lost its funding six years later.
My first day at the last not-for-profit employment program I worked for was amusing. The employee assigned to train and mentor me said “you have two clients to see this morning—an intake and a follow-up. Then, you are facilitating Job Club in the afternoon. I have outside meetings.” He disappeared and I was left to figure everything out.
The first day can set the tone for your future.
Your first day on the job will not be on world-wide television like Joe Biden’s first day as President of the United States. Nonetheless, your first day, like his first day, could set the tone for all the days to follow. Get it right. Errors made on the first day can cost you money.
Landing the job is a new start, and not just the end of a job search. We can help you get to your new beginning. Make an appointment to speak with us about your job search communications strategy. Our blog readers would also love to read your anecdotes about the first day of your career or job. Tell us about them, and the lessons you learned, in the comment spaces below.