I vividly recall my first day as an undergrad. I was only 17 at the time and had, really, no idea what to expect for the entire undergrad experience and neither did the other 100 guys in my dorm. But we were in it together. At our day 1 orientation, we went over the “rules of college,” which seems ridiculous as there really were no rules, you just needed to use discretion. But I took them seriously, to a certain extent, so I could make sure to work hard and stay out of trouble.
I also recall my first day in Corporate America. As a 21 year old, I had little idea what to expect in Corporate America, except for the limited experience I had as an intern, but the others in the group were in the same boat. We were in it together. At our day 1 orientation, we went over the “rule(s) of the company,” which are important to follow to avoid getting fired, but also are up to you to use your discretion. I took the rules seriously when appropriate, based on my prior experiences.
At day 1 orientation in undergrad, we had to do awkward icebreakers. After receiving a prompt question, the conversations went something like this:
Alex: Who is your favorite musician?
Pete: Yeah *awkwardly looks around*
These turned out to be some of the most awkward conversations I could remember up to that point in my life. But, it was a great way to put a name to the face and get out of your comfort zone. Plus, a lot of the people that held these awkward conversations are lifelong friends (like Alex and Pete).
At day 1 orientation in Corporate America, we had to do awkward icebreakers. The conversations went something like this:
Bill: Where did you go to school?
Rachel: I went to Michigan State. What about you?
Bill: Oh, nice! I went to Wisconsin. Are you from Michigan?
Rachel: Yeah, I’m from Kalamazoo. What about yourself?
And the conversation flowed from there. These conversations can be awkward, but at this stage we had practice in introductory settings. It was a great way to put the name to the face of people I would be working with and supporting over the next few months or years, even.
As you can see, the experiences for day 1 orientation in both undergrad and Corporate America for me were almost identical. The main difference, besides setting, is the level of confidence and maturity gained over those four years in college. The experience I had as an undergrad at an awkward orientation taught me how to make it less awkward and how to ask the right questions to people to get familiar. This proved to be invaluable in starting my career off on the right foot.
The connections made at day 1 orientation in Corporate America are vital to your success. The people in this group, often called a “hiring class,” are there for you and should act as a support group. When you have a silly question, reach out to this network. If you need something done, call a member of your hiring class for assistance. Make sure you have some level of connection with everyone in this group, as you never know when you may need their help.
My Biggest Regret
My biggest regret from day 1 orientation at Corporate America was not introducing myself to everyone in the room. There were about 40 of us in the hiring class and I only spoke with the people I knew from my internship - the ones I was comfortable with. Had I gone out of my way to meet others, I would have had a larger and stronger network to access.
How can you avoid this same regret I had? Be confident in walking up to a stranger and shaking their hand and ask a few basic questions about them. Don’t get hung up with others you are comfortable with - they will still be there even if you talk to new people. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and expand your network!
- If you had to go back to day 1 orientation, what would you do differently?
- How can you use the experiences gained as an undergrad at orientation to improve your life and experience in Corporate America?