As you progress in your career, it’s funny to look back on your first job and think about your old hopes, dreams and flat out desperation. You show up for your first day and don’t initially notice how depressing it is that not a single person looked up from their desk when a shiny new hire was introduced. You had a job! Money! Someone thought YOU were worth paying and it officially wasn’t a case of mistaken identity that you got hired.
When I graduated in late 2008 the job market was non-existent. All of 2009 passed and I’d been diligent about tracking my applications, which totaled more than 500 by the end of the year. When I got hired for my first job in March of 2010 I was so desperate that I actually told them I’d take less than they offered me. What?! I didn’t even know what I was saying! I think it was some kind of desperate plea, still in shock that I’d been hired. A kind of, “Please don’t change your mind, and if you do, I’ll take less money!!”
When I started, exactly one person spoke to me and tried to make me feel welcome on my first day. I’d been so excited to start working that I naturally assumed people would be equally excited to have me on board, so I was fairly disappointed to find out I was just another dust bunny in the basement. Eight years later and I have never forgotten her or how she made me feel welcome, simply by introducing herself and talking to me like she was happy to have me there. Eventually I made several excellent friends at the company and had a great three years of employment there, but in the beginning, it was fairly quiet and pretty scary for a person brand new to the workforce!
It’s not my intention to dog on my first company – they are the norm when it comes to employee onboarding. Most jobs I’ve had, it’s been up to me to introduce myself, try to remember faces and associate them with names, job titles and teams while also trying to simply remember where my desk is.
My last company, Midmark, was the shining star of employee onboarding. I can’t say enough fabulous things about this company and how much they truly care about their employees. (No, they aren’t paying me to say this and I haven’t been employed there for more than a year!)
On my first day, one of my teammates took me out to a nice lunch and made me feel like Midmark was a place where I’d have colleagues who cared about me as a person. The week I was hired, Midmark actually sent a box to my house filled with welcome materials – a nice water bottle with the company’s logo, a shirt, a gift card to a local restaurant they owned, etc. They also gave me a booklet that contained everyone’s names and titles, and how everyone’s teams were connected, as well as a book they’d created about the company so I completely understood the history of the company from day one. EXCELLENT.
Contrast that to another company I was at who literally dropped me off at my new workspace and it was disgusting. Push pins all over the floor, dead bugs belly up, no one talked to me for days. The culture didn’t improve from there, so it was a fairly solid indication of the company’s focus on culture.
Beginnings are so important. As I’ve been reading through Daniel Pink’s latest book, “When”, I’ve realized even more how much beginnings set the tone for everything – from first days on the job, project kickoffs, first dates, etc. As the years pass, your memory fades. I’ve been working only 8 years and already a lot of days from past jobs are fading. But I remember those first days and how they directly affected my outlook of the company and my motivation to achieve my greatest work for the mission of the company.
There has always been a clear distinction in my motivation for work, depending on my view of the company. For a company like Midmark, I thought and still believe they are one of the few corporations that actually lives up to its motto: Because We Care. When I worked, I cared about doing a good job for the company as well as myself. With other companies that put zero effort into employee culture and onboarding, my motivation was more often about doing a great job so that I could make myself a more skilled, valuable person in the workforce for the future. (I am also passionate about making the web a more accessible place, so much of my motivation rests in that more than anything else!)
Of course, there is much more to being a good company than proactively creating a happy employee onboarding experience. But it sets the tone and it goes a long way toward starting your employees off running with your mission. If you’re not a company and just a regular person, say hello to a new person. Take them to lunch. It means more than you know. If you’re the company, show your employees you care because I guarantee they’ll care about you, too.