The night before is the worst.
You're nervous. You're the outsider, the new kid. You want to do a good job but have no clue how. You need to be on your best behavior. No wiggle room. They need to like you and think you're competent. That's the goal.
The first day of any job almost always forces us out of our comfort zone, but for Steve Williams, his first day brought him into an entirely different world.
Steve grew up in the foster care system in South Central Los Angeles. By the age of 15, he had lived with three different families before being kicked out and forced to survive on his own. All of the people he grew up with are either "dead or in jail," according to the 24-year-old, but not Steve.
Steve is a success story. He is the poster child for the Alliance for Children's Rights, a nonprofit in Los Angeles dedicated to providing legal aid to foster youth. He is currently on a full athletic scholarship to play football at Benedictine University, and, this summer, he is working full-time as an intern at a media company in Los Angeles.
When asked about his experience working this summer relative to other jobs, Steve admitted, "it was hard to transition. You feel like you have to be smart enough to know what goes on. When I worked in an office previously, it was just janitorial."
Steve was not accustomed to anything that went on in a traditional office and learned the importance of the little things, like coffee. "I don't drink coffee but you need to make coffee for the entire office to show that it's not just about yourself."
Steve understood "how important building personal relationships" was to any job, but he realized that his competency would be the ultimate predictor of his success at this internship. "The main thing was taking notes on everything that goes on in the office. This is not just an average job like working at UPS or McDonald's."
Steve underscored the importance of note-taking: "When people give direction, I need to take down as much information as possible because everyone has something to do. You can't expect someone sitting behind you looking over your shoulder. You have to gain their respect and earn their trust."
Steve said that it was a different type of note-taking than what he did in school. "It's just a person talking. It's you with a notepad. You realize that you need to take that notepad to every meeting and listen. There's no textbook."
The biggest shock to Steve happened when people started giving him important work that needed to be done. "The fact that my work was part of a larger project was surprising. There was no slack. No babysitting. As soon as you get in, you need to hit the ground running. My boss's attitude was, we're going to teach you for two days, but then you need to know how to do it."
Steve came from a world where he couldn't depend on anybody. In the working world, he felt like everyone was depending on him. "It brought me into reality. Nobody is going to hold your hand every step of the way. This is not a bad thing. Once you gain that trust and responsibility from your team, then you get more responsibility. I do a good job on one thing and then they ask me to do more."
When asked if he enjoyed the pressure and responsibility, Steve flashed his ear-to-ear, infectious smile and declared, "Heck yeah. The only time I got nervous was when I had to teach someone new something. I remember being up all night worrying about it. I was part of a team and I didn't want to let anyone down. I felt like it was a make or break task for me." Steve's training of the new employee went well and he learned something himself. "I realized I had to go over my notes and reorganize everything."
Steve has learned a tremendous amount about teamwork, accountability, dependability and time management. His positive attitude, resilience and determination are what have enabled him to overcome obstacles, whether it is a rough childhood or learning to how to use Photoshop. Steve has found a new family and finally feels at home.