“No two days are alike, except the first and fifteenth pretty much.” Jay-Z never had to record billable hours at a law firm, but he gets it. Office life may become boring, standard, predictable, which is why the best two weeks at any job are the first and the last.
When I played office as a child, I was always a secretary. I am surprised that my feminist parents allowed me to engage in a fantasy where I was an assistant to a professional, but I suppose they were more interested in cultivating freedom and independence than telling me I should think about moving up the corporate ladder when I was four years old. I had an actual administrative job before law school, and there is still a part of me that loves that kind of work. This pile of folders needs to be alphabetized in that drawer? I’m on it. This binder needs tabs that are color coded by topic? Please, let me. This pile of papers needs to be collated? That’s all I want to do. There is a meditative quality to doing work that is tactile and easily identifiable as productive and helpful. The first week of any office job is full of all of the administrative tasks I secretly love. You set up your phone, computer, email, fill out paperwork and run it up to HR.
Your first week, you meet everyone in the office, and they are all on their best behavior. It’s the closest thing you get to having a college orientation again, except you are the only new kid (or one of ten or something). Everyone is making a point to say hi, telling you about the great Thai place down the street, telling you about why the vending machine can be weird. This is the one week where you get to ask stupid questions, like where the water cooler is, and make a new friend while someone explains why they didn’t put it in the kitchen and walks you down the hall to the storage closet where you can find it.
You do get some work your first week of work, of course, but you don’t already have a workload to manage. Your tasks take just as long as they take to complete, no more. Maybe you finish something early, and while you wait for the next task to be prepared for you, you can read the New York Times without shame because, hey, you’re new.
The last week is even better. No one gives you new work; your only focus is tying up the loose ends of your caseload. You may get to close some files, but you also may just get to turn over your to-do list to a bright-eyed new associate. “We need to write a motion on this once we get the medical records back.” You identified what needs to be done, but you don’t need to do it.
All the things you learned about the office – like the fact that the water cooler is in a storage closet – are things you get to appreciate and experience one last time before you take your leave. You make a point to have lunch with all your co-worker friends, to visit everyone’s office and take your leave of them. You get to request that Susan in accounting make her famous coconut cookies on your last day. The focus is on the connections you have made with people, the work you have done, and the excitement of going somewhere new.
Post image via Shutterstock.