Given that many students are beginning their summer internships this week, and that many recent college graduates are starting their new full-time jobs soon, I though I'd recount an (embarrassing) event that occurred during the first week of my first job after I graduated from college -- in order to point out something most definitely NOT to do, as well as something to be very aware of during the inital weeks of any new job.
Out of college, I was hired by a non-bulge-bracket, non-household-name investment bank to work as an analyst in its M&A department in its North American headquarters, which were located across the street from Grand Central Station in New York City. I was 21 at the time and quite proud to have landed the job, as well as quite amazed that someone was paying me such a ridiculous amount of money to work for them.
Along with the nice paycheck (which was on par with, or slightly higher than, what bulge-bracket banks were paying its analysts) I received all of the standard investment banking perks, including free dinners and free black-car rides home if I worked past a certain time (which, then, I think, was 7 p.m.).
To that end, about three or four days into my first week on the job, I worked until about 7:45 p.m. (which, incidentally, was, and still is, considered a very early and not late hour to be heading home for a first-year analyst) and thus I was eligible to order a car to pick me up and take me home, for no charge. Of course, I could've just walked across the street to the subway and taken the train home -- I didn't live that far from the office -- but feeling entitled to the ride, and because it was raining, and because I could call for a ride, I did.
As is customary, while on the call to the limousine company, I was given a car number and told my waiting time. I remember that the car service company was very busy since it was raining and thus my waiting time was longer than usual. About 30 or 40 minutes. In any case, I went downstairs to the lobby of the building and waited for my car.
When it did finally show, rain still pissing down, I exited the building quickly, dashing for the car. I got in, slid to the middle of the backseat, and as I was telling the driver the address of my destination, both back doors popped open and two gray-haired men in blue suits and red ties slid into the car. I looked at them; I'm sure I was visibly annoyed.
"I'm sorry," said one of the two. "I think this is our car."
"I'm pretty sure it's mine," I said.
"Are you sure?" the other one asked, and smiled.
"Yeah," I told him.
"Okay," the first gray-haired man said, settling in, not looking like he had any intention of getting out. "Would you mind dropping us off downtown, then? We're just going a few blocks to a restaurant. We've been waiting for our car forever."
"I'm going the other way," I told him. "Uptown."
"It won't take long," one guy said.
"We promise," the other one said.
"Okay," I said, not pleased, to say the least, that these two gray-haired dudes had hijacked my car.
And so the driver started downtown.
On the way, one of the two men asked me where I worked. I told them the name of the bank, which was one of a handful of tenants in the building. Then they asked me which department I worked in, and I told them that as well. I don't recall saying much else to them on the ride, if anything, and when the driver stopped to let them out, they both handed me their business cards and told me to say hello to my boss for them. Since I was still annoyed for having allowed them to ride with me, I didn't even glance at their business cards. Instead I just stuffed them in my pocket. Then the driver made a U-turn and headed uptown.
The next morning, I noticed that both of the men's titles were the same: vice chairman. And when I told the story to the associate I worked for, and then showed him their business cards at its climax, his eyes nearly popped out of his skull. "They run North American operations!" he said.
"It was my car," I said.
At any rate, take note: you never know who you might be sharing an elevator with, a cafeteria bench with, or a black car with, so it's best not to assume that you do now. Otherwise, you're liable to come away looking like an a$$, like some other folks I know.
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