Wow, talk about a coincidence! I’m in my mid-20’s right now and something very similar happened to me at my job when I was 20. It was my first official job as well:
I was working at a summer day camp with 4 other co-workers and the director overseeing around 50-60 children daily. The director was not around much at all due to administrative work but she would pop in from time to time. I’m never one to toot my own horn but the children favored me over the other counselors. Whenever I needed them to do anything, I wouldn’t have to yell at them at all. My cooworkers were accustomed to yelling and belittling(no exaggeration) children to get there way. They made it clear who their specific favorites were and the kids who didn’t fit that category would get no mercy. Since I didn’t believe in their style of discipline, they believed that something was wrong with me! They claimed that I was a “soft” guy who was trying to be best friends with the kids just because I chose to be friendly and critical as oppose to rude and judgmental.
They devised a plan to get me fired by fabricating and/or blatantly lying about scenarios and reporting them to the director behind my back. It got to the point where the director and the head of the organization had to have a private meeting with me threatening termination if I didn’t “clean up my act”. In the meeting, my mind went into lawyer-mode. I was not going to go down without a rebuttal. I debunked every false accusation that was made against me and convinced upper management that this was merely a case of staff-bullying and group-think.
The director had me confront each specific cooworker for their specific accusation. It’s funny how people tend to change their story when confronted by the person who they are speaking so negatively about. The director and the head of the organization apologized to me for jumping to conclusions based on the opinion by the majority.
The relationship between my cooworkers and me worsened as they decided to belittle me and under-mine my authority in front of the children. I had enough of their immature behavior and chose to resign because of it. For the remainder of the summer, I felt like an unemployed loser who allowed others to bully him out of a job. But then…
I read books and conducted research to find that this type of treatment in the workplace is common and very little is done about it. I realized that I can no-longer be passive-aggressive when I’m targeted by others, rather assertive. I would no longer let my guard down and give anyone a reason to lie about me. For every subsequent job I had, I made it my mission to clearly be the best employee that the organization every had.
Directly after that experience, I volunteered at a highly known and recognized children’s organization and immediately became their biggest asset(those are the exact words used by management). I’ve received an award at the end of the year for my excellent contributions and was offered employment in the leadership position soon after. This is the story for every other job that I have been involved with. I’m instantly recognized and valued by everyone.
Even being considered the best will cause it’s problems. I’ve had cooworkers attempt to lie about me simply due to jealousy. However I’ve learned to document everything I do in order to avoid being unfairly misrepresented. It works perfectly exposing the lies and causing the ones who made them to apologize.
My advise: It’s never the end! I have never used that first job as a reference to get anything. Just remember to always watch your back and fight back when necessary. You are responsible for protecting your reputation. Never put that power in the hands of anyone else.
If you need anymore specific advise, feel free to message me!