Between getting laid off twice in 2017, as well as promotions and freelance roles at other companies, I’ve had a lot of bosses over the years. Although they were all very different, they had one thing in common: They all taught me something that I’ve kept with me from job to job. Here’s what I learned from them, and how it’s helped me grow in my career.
1. Don’t limit yourself
When you start out in your career, it’s easy to be super excited and motivated to succeed. But some people might want you to slow down and focus on the job that’s right in front of you. While it’s important to keep your head down and work hard, it’s also important to dream big and think ahead. Don’t let a boss put you in a box. Keep that motivation and stay inspired to succeed. Do the job you have really well, and then aspire to do more. Otherwise, you’ll end up limiting yourself to what you’re currently doing and may stray from reaching all of your career goals.
2. Age doesn’t matter
I once had a manager who was younger than me. I didn’t know it for a long time, and it didn’t matter whatsoever. My boss knew everything about the company and was really good at her job. She was a great listener, always willing to help and knew how to keep our team calm when things got stressful. Whether your manager is 20 years your senior or a few years younger than you, they’re still your boss and they’re in that role for a reason. Respect them and then learn as much as you can from them.
3. Network always.
When you’re working, it’s important to get to know your coworkers, as well as meet other peers outside of your company. I had a boss once who always promoted coffee dates, informational interviews, networking events and more, both in and out of the office. She told me to find a mentor and make connections as much as possible. Because of her, I learned how important it was to network. I’ve continued to schedule coffee dates and meet new people, and it’s helped me learn more and more about my career path.
4. You can never be too prepared
I’ve always been a to-do list maker, but I had a boss once who taught me how important it was to be prepared for every part of my job. From meetings to reports and everything in between, I learned what it meant to be overprepared and how it could really help you stand out among the crowd. From then on, I made sure to go above and beyond with everything I did at work, and I think it’s helped me grow and succeed in my career.
5. Follow your heart
I once had a boss who was a product manager. Now, I’ve always been on the content side of things, so working for someone who had a more technical eye was a great experience. It was a great job and team, and I learned a lot, but it wasn’t the right fit for me. Ultimately, I was recruited to join another company that was in the personal finance content space. My heart wasn’t in my current job at the time, but it was in this new company. I gave my two weeks notice, and my boss really didn’t want me to leave. However, he understood that I needed to follow my heart. He was supportive and made my last two weeks there the best they could have been. He helped me realize how important it really is to do what you love every day.
6. Don’t be afraid to manage up
When you work underneath someone, they usually will manage you, and help you learn and grow. However, it’s also important to manage up. I had a boss once who was put into a managerial role after not having much experience. We worked very closely together, tag-teaming much of the job at hand, and sometimes I needed to remind her about things. She was so open to everything, from feedback about how best to communicate with me to my reminders about deadlines when her plate was full. Don’t be afraid to give your boss feedback. A good manager will take it and apply it, and appreciate your help in making them a better boss.
7. It’s important to try things you’ve never done before
One of my more recent jobs was in content marketing. It was a brand new job for me since I had always worked in digital media before that, writing articles for the web and working with social media. My manager had a lot of great experience and I was looking forward to learning a lot of her. However, so much of what I was doing was stuff I had never done before. I was nervous and out of my comfort zone. She reminded me constantly that it was okay and that it was important to continue trying my best. I ultimately realized that the type of work I was doing was just not meant for me, but I appreciated her support while I worked there to learn and grow.
8. You can’t the best employee unless you first take care of yourself
The best life lesson I learned from a boss was how important it is to truly focus on self-care. Work is important, but you can’t be your best self at work if you’re not taking time to rest, relax and rejuvenate. Whether it’s a day off to go to the doctor when you have a cold, or a few days spent at home when there’s a loss in your family, my boss stressed the importance of self-care over work. A boss who wholly supports you both in and out of the office is a rare find. If you ever get a chance to work under a manager like that, hold onto them and learn as much as you can. They’ll teach you more than just a few skills to put on your resume. You’ll learn how to be a better person, and a great future boss yourself.