Between most of my college friends hating their jobs and my unconventional career path, I find myself talking to a lot of young people about career advice. The conversations take many forms, but I always come back to the same piece of advice: work for someone who is genuinely interested in your personal and professional development. But what does that look like? How can I determine whether that’s the case?
If I was graduating college today or switching industries, I’d try to work for someone that embodies the following qualities:
Relevant domain mastery:
You should work for someone who is very good at what you want to get good at. I’ve experienced the spectrum of career situations ranging from having to figure out everything on my own to working for a master. Though I appreciate the merits of teaching yourself, working for a master is far better. Masters provide a solid foundation that you can use to calibrate your own thoughts, ideas, and results around. You’ll hone your skillset at a much faster rate and the process is more enjoyable.
Sparring with the best is the fastest way to a title fight.
Values teaching and continuous education:
Teaching is time-consuming. You want to find someone that recognizes the value in investing their time and energy to educate you so much so that they go out of their way to do it. Workplace education isn’t just limited to instruction either. It includes being privy to experiences, insights, and information. Working for a great teacher looks like the following:
- They pull you into meetings you have no business being in
- They loop you in on critical pieces of information that you don’t necessarily need to know to do you job effectively. They tell you because they know it will help you grow.
- They review your work. Not because they don’t trust you, but because they want you to be the best you can be.
- They’re intentional about making their thought processes transparent.
The best teachers are still students. They keep an open mind because they’re always looking to get better. They even intentionally surround themselves with others that are different than them because they want to learn. You want to work for someone who is open to the idea of learning from you. Why?
- It brings meritocracy to actions; you’re always doing what you believe is most effective instead of being restricted to their prescription.
- It facilitates openess and honesty; you’re comfortable explaining your decisions and thought process because the other party has an open mind.
Multiple people growing together as one unit is the most fufilling way to learn.
They want you to be successful
When someone wants you to be successful they seek out opportunities for you to flourish. They lift you up because its never a competition; there’s no tension because when you win they win and vice-versa. And when you win, you share the victory.
These relationships are the essence of a good team.
They care about your life outside of work
It’s very fulfilling when someone takes an interest in your life at work. It makes the office a more enjoyable place. A relationship solely predicated on the value you provide to your company just doesn’t feel authentic. It feels transactional. This may be why the best mentorships often end up looking more like friendships.
Knowing what I know now, I’d use this framework as a starting place for deciding who I’d like to work for. As a prospective employee how would you find this information out? The best course of action is to talk to the people that work(ed) with them. Do they indicate that these people embody these characteristics?
I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where the leaders of my current company embody all of these things. It’s something I feel very grateful for and hope to pay forward some day.