Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte and LinkedIn Influencer, recently wrote a post entitled, “9 Reasons I Loved My First Boss… Advice for Young Professionals.” He talked about how important it is for people to have a great boss early in their careers.
Bersin’s “great boss” was his manager at IBM, Bob. Bersin writes, “I’ve had a bunch of “bosses” but my very first one was by far the best. He was an old-fashioned IBM manager (I only remember him taking his jacket off once in ten years). He played golf, shmoozed with clients, and was generally a formal but very nice guy.”
This article inspired me to think about all the bosses I’ve had over the years and what helpful career advice I’ve received from each one. So below are a few takeaways I’ve received from some great bosses in the past—hopefully their words of wisdom will help you in your job search and career pursuits as much as they continue to help me.
Carrie: Experience is the best teacher
Carrie was my editor at the state’s largest newspaper. She was great at helping me craft my news stories and focus on timely information when reporting. But the greatest thing Carrie taught me is that experience truly is the best teacher.
When I first began working with her, I was impressed by her knowledge of the industry and her skills as an editor. Like any good editor, she took my rough drafts and turned them into newsworthy pieces. And I was even more impressed (and surprised) when Carrie told me one day that she’d never gone to journalism school; she didn’t even have a degree in the field!
Here was this sharp, talented woman who had worked her way up to being an editor for the state’s largest newspaper (and one of 2013’s top 25 newspapers in terms of circulation), and she hadn’t gone the traditional route as far as education. Carrie’s college background wasn’t in journalism, but she had ample experience in the field. This taught me that the degree isn’t what always matters, but your hands-on experience in a field or industry. When pursuing my goals, I can rack up degree after degree, but without any real-world experience to show I’ve mastered the skills that go hand-in-hand with the field, they will only get me so far.
Justin: Doing what you love helps you love what you do
Now Justin was my manager when I interned for Make-A-Wish America. He was the most creative, relaxed and free-spirited boss I’ve ever had. Justin was a creative at heart with a passion for helping others. Every day you’d see him smiling—no matter if the day was hectic or if something went wrong.
Plus, Justin lived life to the fullest by taking every opportunity to travel. He had so many exciting stories to tell about the places he’d been, and each one helped fuel his creative drive and energy.
Justin was (and still is) extremely invested in making a difference that his job truly wasn’t a job at all because he loved what he did. This taught me the importance of working in a field that allows me to express my creativity and that falls in line with my passions.
Stephen: People should be the main focus of any job
Stephen was one of my absolute greatest bosses. He was the managing editor of a small town newspaper in North Carolina, and even in my short time working with him, he taught me so much.
Stephen was all about business and ensuring the paper ran smoothly and efficiently, but at the root, he was all about people. As a new manager, he created a comfortable atmosphere for his employees, having humor-filled weekly meetings. He’d sit down with me at lunch and just talk about life, and every day before leaving he’d stop in my office to talk with me just to make sure things were going smoothly. He was a manager that was truly invested in my success, not only in those moments, but in the future.
People are at the heart of journalism, and Stephen taught me this in many ways. Every story I wrote he ensured had an appealing angle for the community. He challenged me to go out into the town, report and meet new people. He also pushed me to interact with the other team members so I would understand the importance of working on and as a team.
People were the focus of our stories and business, but Stephen taught me that people are really the focus of our lives. Every interaction and connection makes an impact on us—and working with Stephen and the team of other reporters left a long-lasting impact on me and my career.
Al: Work hard, but enjoy life
Al was another one of my absolute greatest bosses. He was a part of the C-suite at a Fortune 500 company—but you’d never know it. He was a very cool, laid back kind of guy. Hailing from Chicago, Al was a mix of old-fashioned manager—as he stayed late and came in early—with a touch of “new school” charm—as he blogged and worked his way into tweeting.
One day, Al said to me, “If you work for a company and don’t enjoy it, leave. Give it a year, and if you’re not enjoying the work, leave. Life is too short not to enjoy it and have fun with the work you’re doing.” These words of wisdom have stuck with me.
You see, Al worked very, very hard. Yet, he still enjoyed life and the work he was doing. He came in the office before everyone else, but he hosted an annual golf outing. And he traveled for business often, but he put on an annual charity event to support his toy foundation. He had a knack for infusing his role for the company and his personal ventures, which allowed him to be about business while simultaneously being about pleasure. Al taught me that work can be fun—even with the demands of a C-suite role.
Have you had received great advice from great bosses over the years? Share their insights in the comments section below!