ATD Blog

My “First Day on the Job” Moment

Friday, March 15, 2019

My first day of work at my first job continues to influence my perspective on workplace learning 20 years later. I was a concession stand cashier at the local movie theater during the summer. I had learned plenty of things in school, but I had never worked with the public or handled money before. As a very shy kid, I was pretty nervous. Then I met Tommy. Tommy was a supervisor who ran the onboarding program. He guided my classmates and I though a seemingly perfect blend of lecture, discussion, and hands-on practice. I was never afraid to fail, and I learned plenty of practical tricks along the way. When my first shift with guests came, I was so much more confident than on my first day thanks to Tommy's efforts.

Now, as a CLO, I always try to remember what it was like to be that kid on his first day at his first job. I didn't just need new knowledge. I needed support that could bolster my confidence and help me focus on doing my job the right way.

And I didn't get that from the classroom. I picked it up from round after round of practice and the patience that I was shown when I didn't get it quite right the first time. I applied this mindset when I eventually took over training for my theater locations as a manager, and then as an L&D professional within other organizations, and now as someone who works across the professional community to help shift mindsets and evolve the way organizations support people in their work.


Thanks again, Tommy!

About the Author

JD Dillon is one of the most prolific authors and speakers in workplace learning today. With his practical approach, JD integrates science, technology, storytelling and pure common sense to enable employees, improve organizational performance and drive business results.

JD has spent 20 years designing learning and performance strategies for respected global organizations, including The Walt Disney Company, Kaplan, Brambles, and AMC Theatres. He is currently Chief Learning Architect with Axonify, where he partners with an award-winning team to solve business problems for leading organizations through the application of modern learning practices and cutting-edge technology.

JD is also the founder of LearnGeek, through which he provides advisory and educational services.

You can find JD on Twitter via @JD_Dillon or online at

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Excellent point. I've always kept a diary of my first day impressions when I start with a new organization. I never want to forget those emotions and thoughts, because it's part of my learner analysis when working on content for new hires. I've challenged my staff to go back and pluck those memories for themselves which makes them more empathetic when working with new hires.
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Great story, JD -thanks for sharing. None of us should discount the value of patience and persistence in working with young people or first time employees. We all need someone to believe in us and make it safe to fail.
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