O Captain, My Captain!
When I first learned of an open position with my current employer 5 years ago, I wish I could say I saw it as a dream job. To be honest, it was just one of several openings I’d applied for in an effort to push myself beyond the comfort zone I’d developed. I knew nothing about the agency, to the extent that when someone called to schedule me for the interview, I pretended to know where their office was located so as not to send up red flags of inexperience. When my interview came, I gave myself an hour to find this organization and used my extra time to sit in the car and do research on their work.
I made my way into the tiny office tucked into a strip mall that looked like it had seen better days. I waited for my meeting not in a fancy lobby or reception area, but while sitting on one of the worn folding chairs that were a staple of the décor. A few minutes later, however, my entire perception of the organization changed. As soon as I met their charismatic Executive Director, I didn’t know what this agency did exactly but knew he was a leader I wanted to follow.
What came after was the most challenging job of my career, filled with risks I wasn’t ready for but encouraged to take. If there was something I wanted to try, I was given the freedom to go for it. If there was something that could be done more effectively, it was mine to improve. I not only learned about my job, I watched and learned how to interact with people. I developed habits like not eating during meetings so you can be fully present in the conversation. I found that someone not calling you back or returning your email isn’t the end of the task, it’s just a roadblock to figure out a way around. I became the “go-to” finance person, which is ironic given that accounting was my lowest grade in college. I learned to present solutions, not problems.
While it wasn’t always easy, working for someone I wanted to be like was the best motivation I could have asked for at this turning point in my career. While I now bring my own unique strengths to this position at my organization, I know how much I owe to the person who took a risk on me years ago.
Who do you have in your life to push you to perform at your best? Half the employees who quit their job do so because of their boss, which makes finding a boss you not only get along with but who brings out your strengths incredibly valuable. Before you change jobs or accept a new position, take a hard look at who will be leading you. Is it someone who will give you the space to gain experience with the safety to fail? You can enjoy the job itself, but if you won’t thrive in the environment and with the team around you, you’ll be selling yourself short. Your time and future are too precious to settle for anything less than being taught by the best.
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