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DAY 1 OF 10,750

By: Steve Horn

Editor’s note: Tom, Dick & Harry gets tons of applications from recent college grads. We only hire the best, one of which is copywriter Steve Horn, who comes from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We asked Steve to document his very first day working “in the pros.” After four years of beer drinking, he’s amped to start making advertising—and money. Here’s what that milestone Monday a week ago was like for Steve. If all goes well and he doesn’t sweat the small stuff, he’s on schedule to retire in about 43 years.

I was early. And not the kind of early that makes you look like a good employee. The kind of early that makes you wonder why the fuck you didn’t hit the snooze button a few more times or stay in the shower and scrub a little harder.

I took a lap or four around the blocks of River North to kill time and get acquainted with the neighborhood. Orleans, Erie, Superior, Huron, Chicago; familiar names, unfamiliar sites. The laps certainly did kill time but they simultaneously killed my dolled-up first-day-of-work appearance. I started to sweat, as laps often make a lapper do. But when I sweat, I don’t just sweat in the traditional sense. I drip. I always have. When it comes to my body, there isn’t much worse than summer sun and a brief stint of physical activity. And that’s how day one began.

Soaked, albeit more acceptably on time I ascended the flight of stairs to Tom, Dick & Harry HQ. I’d been in the office before, but always as a foreign ambassador. Today I had a higher calling…or at least a copywriting job. Upon my arrival I was whisked to my sanctuary, my temple, my castle, my home away from home for the foreseeable future: the desk. It’s worth noting that a lot of ad agencies have similar looks; wood from floor to ceiling and warm track lighting overhead. Essentially, glorified saunas. My new space was no different. So, naturally, the sweat kept coming. Was it nerves? This place is air conditioned, why the hell am I still sopping wet?

After a quick tutorial on linking to the server, it was time to meet the rest of the office and shake hands (god dammit anything but shaking hands…not my clammy, clammy hands). What will these people think? This bearded buffoon from Wisconsin is surely here to drench our office and kill creative energy one bead of sweat at a time.

Before taking the rounds, I set my backpack down. The release of laptop-induced weight and pressure offered a quick reprieve followed by a horrifying reality. I had one of the worst cases of back-sweat in personal history. Now, not only would I greet my new comrades with clam in hand but I’d exit the encounter with a damp and dank shirt as they watched me go. Would it be less obvious if I moonwalked away from each person? Or would that leave a worse impression? Definitely. Moonwalking would definitely weird the shit out of them.

Of course, no one noticed (or at least mentioned) my sweat. Sign number one that I wasn’t about to start working with a bunch of assholes. Signs number two through four consisted of every greeting coming with a smile, a wise crack and a bit of wisdom for my journey ahead.

As my sweat dried and my nerves settled, the day began flying by with a morning meeting, a solo lunch and copious amounts of server browsing and personal reviews of TDHs past work. I’ve learned that most copywriting projects involve a lot of learning and adapting to the unfamiliar voice of an unfamiliar brand, and eventually (hopefully) finding room to work in a bit of your own stuff. And getting familiar with old work is step number one.

I kept my head down, filled out some tax forms and let day one hit the sweat stained pages of history. While it wasn’t any big piece of history, it was noteworthy. Inside jokes were heard through my headphones, laughs were had and vibes were good. I didn’t get the jokes, share the laughs or necessarily add to the vibes, but I didn’t take away from any of it either. They didn’t scare me away on day one. And if all goes well, I’ll be joking on the inside soon enough.

From here on out I figure the key will be to work hard when hard work hits my desk, listen up, get down, crack a wise one when the opportunity presents itself and, most importantly, not sweat the rest.

06.24.14   The Biz, The Words

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