Choose a Boss, not a Job.
I actually hadn't heard this phrase before. So I was feeling pretty smart when I wrote the post title and begun the draft post.
Until I searched the internet - apparently it's quite a popular saying. There goes my smarty-pants feeling. Guess there's nothing new under the sun.
I remember when I had received my offer for a job here in the UK and the conversation I had with two gentlemen. Boss A was my current boss at the time, while Boss B was my almost Boss. Almost I say, because I had been offered a job at his firm - but I had turned it down.
You see, the thing with my new job was that even though I was already a Lawyer in Nigeria, to become a Lawyer in the UK, I was going to have to re-qualify in the UK and essentially go back 3 years - one year of law school in the UK and then another two years of training - back down to the bottom of the ladder.
I had a chat with Boss A and B. Should I take this offer? Boss B thought not and said so upfront that he didn't think it was a great idea. Boss A on the other hand was absolutely in support! Never mind that I was currently his employee and was going to have to leave. He explained that even though I was going back to square one for a bit, it wouldn't matter and my experience in total was bound to be better. The international experience at such a global law firm was definitely a positive career move.
This, alongside all my previous experiences with Boss A made me realise how important it is to pick the right boss.
Sometimes, we think of a job as just a job - a place to do the 9-5 time and earn the pennies for our holidays, a house with the white picket fence (or maybe more accurately in Banana Island, Lagos) and a walk-in-closet. At the point when we are job hunting we're prepared to take the first job we are offered. And that's not a bad thing - especially when we have no choice.
But if it happens that we do have a choice, I'll suggest paying a lot of attention to who your boss will be. Especially if it's your first boss!
1. Personal and career development: If you pick the right boss, you are just not another employee doing the rounds. Rather he/she is genuinely interested in what path you take. You'll be provided and involved in amazing opportunities at work that'll help your career and development. You'll be singled out to go for those conferences abroad and attend the big meetings. I've seen this play out many times with people around me.
2. Relationship Building: With the right boss, your relationship transcends the period of your employment with him/her. Rather, you will succeed in building a relationship that you're able to leverage and utilise. Even though I no longer work at the firm, I'm able to email Boss A occasionally to seek his advice on various matters.
So how can you pick the right boss?
I can't claim that I was fully aware of these before settling for the job with Boss A, but in retrospect maybe I was... (Smarty Pants?).
1. Research his/her personal story: I'm sure you know to research the firm you're applying to. But did you think to research your potential bosses? Is their career path akin to something you'll like to consider? Boss A had a foreign LL.M degree shortly after his undergrad and then had a year of international experience in a global law firm. With this experience, he returned to start his law firm in Nigeria - which is now one of the foremost law firms in Nigeria. I knew that an international LL.M was in my short term plan after I secured my first job. Consequently, Boss A was likely to support considering he has done this himself. In addition I could believe his judgement that an experience at a global law firm was invaluable.
2. The Interview: Everyone says an interview is a two way process. It really is. It's a great opportunity to assess the bosses you'll be working with. I remember my hour long interview with Boss B. I left the office feeling quite less of myself. I felt like he had intentionally tried to belittle me and my achievements by asking some funny questions. On the other hand, my about 10 minute interview with Boss A, and the one question I recall him asking, had me thinking about my career path!
3. Ask Questions: I hear people don't leave jobs; they leave bosses (I also think they leave salaries though! Lol!). Generally, word on the street was that Boss A was a good boss and many people stayed on the firm because of him. Even people who left had mostly good things to say.
Although I say boss, this could (as applicable) be read to mean the general culture of your place of work. You're likely to be spending most of your hours there - so you definitely want to pick a firm that you'll feel comfortable in. I remember a firm I interviewed at here in London. As I walked in the receptionist said to me 'Oh it's so great to see another black person in here'. What? In this day and age, workplace diversity is kind of key, and firms make efforts to incorporate this. Was this lady the only black person in the firm? I couldn't tell, but considering that I had gone through the firm's website and most of the employees were of a certain class, I wasn't so sure how well it would work for me.
Finally, at the end of the day it's personal. I know people who did not get on well with Boss A, and people who absolutely think Boss B is fantastic - and he is, but it just wasn't meant for me at that time.
So, trust your gut and here's hoping you pick the right Boss.
If however, you are not in a position to choose a Boss, go with the job and try to win the bosses over to your side, building relationships and adding value!
What do you think of this? Are you an employee? Did you have a choice to research your bosses and pick them? Or were you more enticed by the job? What's the relationship with your boss like?