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June 30, 2008
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The Glory of the First Day

The HR Doctor is pleased to share with you a “journey of the mind” activity which will very likely make you smile. It may also give you pause for reflection on the past and thoughtful consideration of how to make your future brighter. 

A journey of the mind is a technique invented by Albert Einstein that involves the unleashing of a powerful imagination to put yourself in a particular setting and consider the results.

In Einstein’s case, it might have been a rocket leaving earth and traveling faster and faster toward the speed of light. What followed was consideration of what would happen to the relative lengths of time for the earth’s inhabitants versus the crew of the rocket ship. However, in your case and my case, recollection of the events of high school physics is not at all suggested in order to read on.

Imagine that it is once again your first day at your first professional job. Imagine the excitement, the anticipation and possibly the fear or terror that went through your mind as you crossed the doorway threshold into that workplace.

What it must have been like to meet all of those new colleagues and to consider the first impressions they made on you and the first impressions you left behind. Perhaps you’ve forgotten their names, perhaps you said something that later made you slap yourself silly considering how dumb the comment was.

Perhaps you met a new mentor or friend you could turn to, to ask questions of major or tiny import. The beautiful HR Daughter Elyse recently changed county jobs and is now administrative manager at the gigantic Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, which is part of county government. On her first day she was asked to attend a meeting in the main conference room. Her response was, “Gladly, where’s the main conference room?” 

Think about your evening at home after that first day at work. Was the initial fear and anxiety reduced by the calm support of new colleagues? How might you be greeted on the morning of the second day at work?

As you entered the workplace on day two, would people giggle and turn away from you because of something you might have said or done the day before? Or would they continue a positive orientation and perhaps assign meaningful and important work to you?

Now fast-forward to wherever you currently are in your career. Many of the readers of the HR Doctor articles are mid- and senior-level professionals. You may be a decade or two into your work. You may even have titles that impress neighbors, relatives and your dog — titles such as assistant deputy under-director in the Department of Redundancy Department (sorry Monty Python!).

For you, it is particularly valuable to quietly recollect the events and emotions of those first days at work. Perhaps you’ve lost some of the zeal and excitement associated with your career. Perhaps it is time to realize that and take steps to regain the excitement and challenge to perform and contribute that are characteristic of those early career moments. 

Perhaps the time has come to realize that the employee who just walked into your office, interrupting your concentrated reading of this very article, may, in fact, be the latest iteration of a brand new “first-dayer,” just like you were. Perhaps you can be as great a mentor to that person as your first mentor was to you. Perhaps you can be better. Put yourself in that person’s shoes, high heels or work boots and take some extra time to show them where the main conference room is or to give them the encouragement that is directly associated with the wonderful gift of confidence building.

Perhaps for yourself it is time to seek a new challenge. Seek a challenge that will rejuvenate your workplace spirit and help you return to consciousness in case you have been drifting slowly toward a coma for the last several months or years, feeling that the work is increasingly repetitive and boring. 

The glory of the first days can become the model for the recharging of your own internal batteries. In the huge majority of cases, the opportunities to plug in and recharge can be found right in your own office.

Perhaps the battery charger can be your boss when you visit that person in a quiet moment and ask for the chance to work on a different project or play a different role in the organization. Perhaps it will be the opportunity to help a colleague with a project that you know is a struggle for her. Perhaps it can be in improving your public speaking and presentation skills.

In a minority of cases, coming to life and recapturing a bygone excitement may require a job change. The effects of years of erosion of the soul may require a new adventure. Perhaps a move across the country or across the street, perhaps a periodic adventure like an African safari to bring a long-held dream to life may be just the ticket to plug in the recharger.

Changing jobs may not be necessary. Changing attitudes may be essential. One strong, positive attitude changing machine is to become an active volunteer in a charitable organization supporting a cause you believe in. Perhaps that work on your off-duty time may help your own perspective grow. There is something compelling about touring United Way agencies, for example, that help women or kids in distress, or support research and treatment of breast cancer or HIV-AIDS to give you a boarder appreciation of how damn lucky you probably are as you read this article. Involve and engage family members in the volunteer activity for an even greater, more meaningful experience.

Remembering the joy and excitement of a first experience in the past gives you a first-class ticket to a more positive future.

Phil Rosenberg
The HR Doctor •


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