First paycheck in the States

Today I’d like to tell you a story about my first paycheck in the States.

I landed in Los Angeles on May 31st, 2013 (Yay, it’s been exactly 4 years). There I went through immigration process and took a flight to San Francisco. It’s been 4 years since we moved to the States and people still ask me if it was scary to move to the new country, and there’s no simple answer for that.

This plane brought me to the States

I remember the very first feeling of fear:  I was sitting on a plane that was about to take off and even greater feeling of fear came. I finally realized that we had sold everything and I am flying to a new country. The country where we don’t have anyone and anything, the country where people speak the language I barely know. Honestly if I had a chance I would have jumped out of the plane, but I hadn’t.

I arrived on Friday and on the next Monday, June 3rd I started Software Quality Assurance courses that I had found while had been in Russia. My plan was to take these course and find a job in 3 months. Why 3 moths? Because we had money for 3 months only.  And if I wouldn’t find a job we would have been in trouble.

Back in 2013 I even had hair

First two months were crazy, I spent 14 hours at the school every day. Came home at midnight, did my homework until 1AM and went to bed exhausted and excited at the same time. 

Nice pool for studying and doing homework

Two months after starting the school I was told that it was the time to start looking for a job.

What? It’s been two months only, I know nothing, I don’t speak English, what do you mean by saying “I have to start looking for a job”?

That was my monologue with a course coordinator, but she either didn’t hear me or didn’t understand. She told that my resume was ready and it’s time to go.

Recruiter from Texas

The next day at 5am my phone rang, I picked up a phone and found out it was a recruiter from the East Cost. Probably he forgot about time difference and because I was still asleep (but my fear didn’t) I hang up on him.

I am sorry Mr. Recruiter, it wasn’t because of you. It was because of me.

I was so scared to answer phone calls. I thought people would not understand me and they would never call me back. Which was true, some of them have never called me back.  Now you know that sometimes even a Russian can be scared. I remember I spent almost a week not answering phone calls.

This picture doesn’t need a funny joke about Chuck Norris

Until one day: I still don’t know why but I eventually answered a call. It was a recruiter from Texas with a Texan accent. Boy was I screwed. Not only I was scared, but I was about to start laughing. Because, I don’t know why I did so, but I was picturing this poor fellow sitting in a saloon, drinking coffee with a corn bread and ready to scream “Yeehaaw”.

I am sorry Texans, I love you so much and I know now that you’re not riding a horse to work and you don’t shoot your Magnum 45 screaming “Yeehaaw”.

He has never called me back. I have no idea why.

First Paycheck

After n! interviews, some was not so bad and other were a disaster, I got my very first offer. It was an unpaid 1 month internship with a mobile gaming company. The company was very small and didn’t have money to pay me, but I didn’t care. I had two options: continue my job search while sitting without money, or taking this opportunity and instead of money get an experience. Which in my case was worth more than a billion.

Couple of days before the end of my internship my manager called me to his office and told that I can stay longer and they will pay me $15/hr plus overtime. No 401(k), no insurance, nothing but $15/hr.  Man was I happy, if somebody told me than 3 months after coming to the States I will get my first job that would pay money, I wouldn’t  believe at all. Certainly I accepted!

In a few days the pay day came and when I came to office at 9am and my very first paycheck was waiting for me on my desk (no dollars underneath of course as I didn’t get tips).

first paycheck

I hope it will become our family heirloom

Since then I’ve changed 4 employers and have received a lot of paychecks, several bonuses, couple of RSUs and a pay raise. But the first paycheck will always be more than just a paycheck. Even though it’s been the smallest check I’ve ever received, but for me it has the greatest value so far.

Do you remember your first paycheck? Do you keep it?


Writing this post I found this great post from 10! about his first dollar. You should read it.

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15 Responses to First paycheck in the States

  1. Kyle says:

    What an awesome story! Happy anniversary again, and I’m so glad to see God blessing you in this country!

    • He really is, he’s been so helpful and generous to us. I am glad we can do these things and share our story with the whole world.
      Thanks for stopping by Kyle, I appreciate that.

  2. Wow you a truly the American dream. Coming with three months worth of expenses and training for three months in order to become employable. Wow such a great story. I wish I still had my paycheck. I honestly think I deposited it and that was the end of that. But it was a great feeling watching my bank balance go up that first time!!!
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…Lessons From Jerry SeinfeldMy Profile

  3. Amazing story. I just takes one opportunity to get the ball rolling. Love that you still have your first paycheck. I remember mine too, but I didn’t save it. It was much smaller and I was a camp counselor back when I was 14. I think I made $800 for 8 weeks, so each paycheck was tiny.

    Thanks for sharing and congrats on your anniversary!

    Dividend Diplomats recently posted…Just Go For ItMy Profile

    • Thanks a lot Bert for stopping by and writing your comment.
      I don’t remember my very first paycheck back in Russia, because I’ve been working since I was 14 years old. And I am talking about official jobs with salary and benefits, and before that I had worked for cash a lot; for my parents, for myself (my friend and I washed cars), for my brother in law. And I don’t even remember how I spent all these money

  4. Termos Reais says:

    It’s a beautiful story about courage and change of perspectives in the 21st century. Immigration waves of Russians to the US occurred in previous decades, but the absolute majority of them did not end up working with the IT sector like you. Congratulations on the attitude. That’s a fine example.

    Movies, internet and the media in general, give a wrong image of the Russians. I had an impression before meeting some. Maybe the world has. But after getting to know them better, you realize how they are the opposite of the stereotyped profile of Drago in the Rocky Balboa movie. A sour mood and nice storytellers. Great friends to have a beer.

    • Thanks a lot Termos, for this kind comment. You’re right, the whole world is a bunch of stereotypes. It’s not about Russians only, it’s about every nation. I grew up in USSR during the cold war and our impression about Americans and the western culture was… Wasn’t the good one, let’s say that. And I am glad to have an opportunity to meet people all around the world and brake my stereotypes about the nations these people represent.

  5. Elena says:

    What a great story! Thanks for sharing.
    Желаю дальнейших успехов вам и вашей семье.

  6. Persistence pays off! Good for you for having the courage to come here and work hard to find an opportunity, and for taking advantage of your ability to move up the income ladder.


  7. Zaxon says:

    I worked at a grocery store for my first job. I spent it all on a paintball gun (completely gratuitous and i completely regret it till this day since i sucked at paintball and its expensive hobby). After a few stints working at grocery / fastfood i quickly realized there HAS to be a better way. Breezed through local highschool, got my ass kicked in college, struggled but got engineering degree and never looked back. I envy your story and hard work. I came from much better circumstances and had to have my a$$ handed to me a few times to learn lifes lessons. But learn i did. I do thank my parents for forcing me to get a job as soon as possible.

    • I like Paintball, I was really close to take a plunge and buy a marker (that’s who we used to call a paintball gun in Russia), equipment and start playing. But I don’t remember why I didn’t.
      Thanks a lot for stepping by.

  8. Stas says:

    Hi Stas,

    Just found your blog. A bit late, but better then never. Welcome to the States. I lived here for a few years, came in the late 90s and like you, stayed until 2 AM studying English and then went to classed at 7:30 am. Went through college and on.
    An illness in my family caused me to use /apply “ruchnik” aka manual hand brake.
    All I can say about my experience in the States and to recommend to you is to cherish every moment and your health. Enjoy the summer too while it lasts.
    The book I would recommend for you is “The Blue Zones.”

    PS, Let me know if I may help. Given my family circumstances I am not as financially stable as I was 10 yrs ago, but some advise could be useful.

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