The working world can be a scary place when you’re trying to find yourself. People will chew you up and spit you out, talk about you behind your back and throw you under the bus. Having worked for all sorts of characters — and I mean characters — in my lifetime thus far, there has been one boss who has made it clear that underneath a title does in fact lie an actual human being.
When you work so hard to land a job in this economy, it's not always your "dream job" or where you see yourself in the next ten years (or five). When I was hired to fill my current role at Nickelodeon, I wasn't too familiar with all the innards of my department's business, which proved to be a little scary. New job, new bosses, new responsibilities; would I fare well?
Our first team meeting was coming up and I knew the basic stats about the Senior Vice President of my department: Harvard undergrad, Stanford business school, married with a couple of kids, under 40 years old with a senior title and most impressively, she was a SHE, heading up a department that’s 90 percent male. She was basically a bad... well, you know what. She blew me away with her enthusiasm and obvious intelligence in that first meeting, plus she had a really great likeability factor, which made her relatable.
But what really separated her from simply being a figure to emulate was that she dedicated her time to each employee. We really connected on both personal and professional levels when she took me to lunch. She wanted to know my aspirations in life and how she could pull her resources to help me reach those goals. It's rare to get face time with a senior-level executive and there I was, sharing a meal with mine. The coolest part was learning about her that day, that she’s an avid blogger and that we share a passion for writing.
She proved possible the thing I feared wasn't: it IS possible to have a full time job and a family — a life, essentially. Maybe it's not easy, she would say, and maybe you have to take your laptop to Starbucks after chauffeuring the kids to karate and birthday parties and run on the treadmill while correcting Powerpoint decks and blog in bed after everyone's asleep... but if you really want it, you will make the time and you will get it done.
She doesn't hide her flaws; she laughs them off, exposed for the world to see and tries her best to cut herself a break. No one's perfect and who wants to compete with perfection? You know you'll never get there and you undoubtedly know that that a perfect outer shell is comprised of nothing but lies and insecurities on the inside. When having it all seems more foreign than quantum physics, you will look to that person to prove that it is possible and that you won't fall apart and that success is on the horizon.
It's not every day that you can "vent" to your superior, have her pick you up and dust you off or look to her for career advice, while having her tell you that she has your back. I don't think I've ever seen anyone leave her office without laughing at something she's said on the way out. She exemplifies what is it to be a leader and I am very fortunate to have someone like her in my corner.
There’s a fine line between being someone's superior and being his or her leader. A great leader is respected and when you respect a person, you want to do right by him or her and prove yourself. It increases team moral and makes for exemplary employees. Most importantly, when you like the people you work with and for, it's a reason to get up in the morning and to not hate what you'll be doing for the next ten or more hours of your day.
I encourage anyone who doesn't always have a mentor to seek one who inspires and challenges you, as it will only strengthen your overall outlook and hopefully shape your future positively. Plus, since everything comes full circle, when the mentee becomes the mentor, you'll have a real understanding of the impact your influence can have on another.
Photo credit: Universal