Teach your child…their first boss is more important than their first salary

Degree in hand.  Excitement is high.  Interviews lined up.  Optimism is through the roof.  Job offers come in.

Take the highest paying offer, right?

I mean, there are loans to pay off. And things to buy. And bragging rights to utilize.

The culmination of all those years of schooling — all that hard work and diligence is for this moment – a real job; a paying job; a career to begin.

Excitement should be high. Optimism is rarely a bad thing. Some pride is appropriate. But don’t let your teen lose sight of the big picture for what seems to be immediate benefit.

It could well be that the highest paying offer is the best one, but more important than those first paychecks and more important than their potential job title is their first boss.

This is something I did not at all understand when I graduated from Wharton, the business school of the University of Pennsylvania. In fact, I wasn’t given much guidance, either by the school or by my parents, on how to evaluate potential jobs. When that high paying offer came in, it was assumed by my folks that I would take it, after all, I would have been a fool to give up that much money.  And I did take it, not wanting to be a fool – but the joke was on me.

I got paid very well to do busy work, as my boss was not at all interested in mentoring me, but keeping me at arm’s length, fearful that I was after his job (I wasn’t).  I spent 14 months not growing and not developing skills.  I did what I was told and I did it well, but nothing about my time with that company was expanding my skill set and making me a more marketable employee.

There may be a time when short term salary is the primary consideration: I had a classmate from Wharton who worked for the same company in a different office and had a similarly bad experience; but he was there to make as much as he could for a few years before heading to law school. He accepted the position solely for the short term financial benefit to advance his career in another direction.  Smart.

If your daughter is married and plans to work for a few years before coming home to have children, she may solely be concerned with the short term benefits as well.

In a situation like that, it may be best for your child to accept the highest paid offer. But for most, that is not the case.

Teach your child that their career is not a short term proposition and that their career is built over years, not months.  While a fat paycheck is appealing at any age, it is especially appealing at the outset of a career. The prospect of making more than one’s peers can be quite compelling, making one feel like “they’ve made it.”

But there is a risk of seeking short term benefit at the expense of long term gain.

Your first boss will be your first introduction to the workplace. Your first boss can either invest in you, seek to feed your skills and interest, can be a source of guidance and mentorship and propel your career forward. Or your first boss can seek to use you for their personal gain, can underutilize you as a way to keep you down, can be a constant source of discouragement and/or indifference.

Not every boss is going to fall to one of these extremes; most will be somewhere in the middle. There will be good and bad with each manager just as there is good and bad with each employee. But overall, what is the approach of the person under whom your child will be working?  Do they even know who their boss would be as they go through interviews?

At a time in life when there likely isn’t a family to support, and all of the pressing financial responsibilities that come with one, your child has the opportunity to choose wisely and to set a precedent in how s/he will evaluate potential jobs.

You want a boss that is for you. A boss that desires to see you succeed — whether that means staying at that company, going out on your own, or moving to another company. You want a boss that will invest in you with their time and their wisdom.

Finding such a boss isn’t always easy. There are more bad bosses than good ones. And finding such a boss isn’t always possible, unfortunately. There will be times when the job option(s) are between bla and bla; neither being particularly enticing. There are times when you have to do what you have to do, as the saying goes.

But teach your child to not ignore this aspect of work life. S/he will be spending 40+ hours each week with a set of coworkers and superiors; corporate culture and in particular the culture set by the immediate boss matters a great deal.

So as your child moves into this stage of life and as they seek to figure out how to search
for jobs and how to evaluate potential jobs, teach them to consider their potential boss as part of the set of factors to consider. Teach them that it is okay to ask questions like; who would I be working under? Is it possible to speak to that person before I make a decision? As the person hiring is often not the person you work directly for.

Teach them to view their career not in what is best today only, but what will set me on the best trajectory for a successful career over the next decade or two or three.

A great boss can open up a whole new world. A great boss can inspire and encourage soaring planeand propel your child to opportunities they never dreamed of and successes beyond what they thought possible, because a great boss is interested in helping his people succeed over and above his own pride or status.

And for the day your child becomes a boss, teach him what it means to be that great boss, so that your child is the one encouraging, inspiring and propelling the next generation to bigger and greater things.

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