college, graduate, first job
The job market is a maze of choices that can seem overwhelming at first – Bergen Concierge Service, 2022

Your first job is one of many challenges which will teach self-reliance. It is my hope this essay provides some helpful insight towards this goal.


Dear Graduate,

Remember the famous line from “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads…How did I get here? Time. I often wonder where the years went. I vividly recall milestones in my life, such as the birth of my two sons, but looking back on their childhood seems a blur of activities, play dates, holidays and vacations tossed in the shuffle of years gone by.

My first foray into the working universe was as a snack bar attendant at Horton Memorial Hospital in Middletown, NY (now Orange Regional Medical Center). For seven years spanning high school through college, it was in hindsight a meaningful segue into the adult world. I often said it was one of my favorite jobs ever. Stories still come up, to this day, in conversation. Some of my old friends chide me. “Really!? You worked at a snack bar? I always laugh at this, as if boasting about working for Apple or something – but I digress.

I was young, had little responsibility, and tons of energy. It was a fast-paced and friendly environment. Did I mention free food? What more could a teenager ask for?

So, you may ask, what is this ‘grand takeaway’? Why was I there? How did it help me find my place in the world? To start, I recall the other hospital workers came in on the regular and I quickly learned what they wanted by their gestures and expressions. I loved this. “The usual? You got it!” I would gesture back. A feeling of satisfaction always washed over me by providing a friendly reprieve to the hard-working staff on their short breaks. Lord only knew what some of them were dealing with when they returned to their shift. In hindsight, I realize it was the first of many iterations for me to thrive in a supportive role.

There was a catch, though. The regulars were not only the workers. The other regulars were visitors who had a family member in the hospital for a long time. They also came in like clockwork, but it was to take a break from standing vigil. I was all too eager to make that moment a little brighter, by listening to their stories and providing a good meal or hot cup of coffee.

I vividly recall one lovely woman, older and heavyset with dark hair, whose adult son was very sick with pneumonia. She would come in every night for weeks, the emotional pain seared into her exhausted face as she would recount how he was doing that day. “It was a cold, nothing but a cold…and then it turned” she said over and over.

Perhaps I recall it now as echoes of a pandemic to come.

While I was too young to have children myself, I felt a strong sense of empathy and believed it comforted her. We did have a brief friendship, and I remember the last time I saw her as if it were yesterday. That night she did not make her usual stop but instead was walking straight out the door of the lobby, right outside my view, crying and shaking her head as other family members surrounded her. I stared intently, trying to discern what happened. Finally, she did glance over and, making eye contact, waved her hand with an ‘it is done’ gesture.

I never saw her again. Forty years later, it is still seared into my memory. I can only hope I made a small difference. In hindsight, I know it helped set the stage for many professional and personal manifestations to come.

I would give anything to speak to that young, naive girl now. I would tell her not to worry, and to follow the road. Your first job matters, but is merely a snapshot, a springboard. Take your foot off the brake, metaphorically speaking, and let your intuition guide you. If your talents and ambitions are aligned, the right opportunity will come at the right time, and you will get to where you belong. Be certain to pay attention, however, to the little things – the gut feelings that tell you if you are steering too hard. Listen. This will be your insight to change course.

In summary, one thing I know is certain. Your first job matters. And one day when you look back on the trajectory of your life, you will know exactly how and why you landed there.


Laura Milo DeAngelis | Owner and Founder | Bergen Concierge Service LLC •

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