bottom of the ladder

Lowest or most junior position in a hierarchy. For example, If we hire you, you'll have to begin at the bottom of the ladder. The rungs of a ladder have been likened to a step-wise progression since the 14th century. Also see low man on the totem pole.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.