How it Really Feels to Work Your Way Up From the Bottom

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I think we have all been there- bottom of the totem pole, last rung on the socio-economic ladder…whether it’s an internship or an entry level position, unless you are a Rockefeller or a Kardashian, we’ve all had to go through this. Many of us are still going through this. Some of us get to the top, change our minds, then have to go through this all over again (I’m thinking Chandler Bing as a 30-something-yr-old intern in the later “Friends” years). I think most of us can relate to the feeling of being the intern, or being the only person in the office who has never had a “real job” before. For anyone who has never worked on the bottom and doesn’t understand how this feels, it would probably be in your benefit to know.

It feels terrible. In fact, the word that might be a better choice is terrifying. It is an absolutely terrifying feeling to walk into a job or an office and have absolutely no idea what you’re doing. Your hands are sweating, your legs are shaking, and for some reason all of the saliva has disappeared from your mouth. This is neither a fun nor enjoyable sensation for anyone. Then, to top it all off, as soon as you walk in, everyone usually gives you a look that confirms your deepest fear—you do not belong here and should probably go back to working the checkout counter at the supermarket for the rest of your life.

It also feels a little humiliating. It’s not easy walking out of college with two bachelor degrees only to walk into an office where your main duties are going to the bank to make deposits and refilling the coffee mugs of higher-ups. Not to mention, a good deal of your co-workers talk to you as if you are their mentally challenged second cousin who they have to watch over for the day, much to their displeasure. This can be demoralizing across the board.

It feels confusing. This is obviously not what you had planned for; running errands for people and filing the mail wasn’t exactly your career goal, so why are you here? Why are you doing this right now? It’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel when the tunnel is so full of people yelling at you for transferring their calls incorrectly.

It feels exhausting. So much energy is spent trying not to mess up, or trying to do a good enough job that maybe someone will notice and give you a promotion or, if you’re an intern, offer you an actual job there. Not to mention, it is so tiring trying to always seem busy in order to make a good impression. Sometimes there is really nothing to do.

Working at the bottom of the ladder isn’t easy. Many people have to work multiple jobs, due to the fact that a lot of internships are unpaid and entry-level jobs pay so little. It’s a hard type of life, and the best thing anyone can do is just hope that all of this strain and hard work will eventually pay off in the long run. Maybe these types of positions will make us stronger and more humble people someday. Or maybe it will just piss us off so much that when we finally do get to an admirable job position all we will want to do is boss everyone around as revenge. Only time will tell.

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