The Worst Boss I Ever Had…

…was, in a way, the best.

When I left college in 2004, I didn’t really have a plan. I was working in retail at the time, mainly because I had a great part-time job throughout college in a large department store. I had a lot of experience under my belt in retail, but a strange lack of confidence in my ability to break into another sector. I don’t know why, because more than one person told me I appeared to have buckets of self belief. At the time I remember feeling annoyed with myself that everyone else seemed to have things sorted and knew where they were going and what they were doing.

With the benefit of hindsight, I know many of my college peers were just as all-at-sea as I was but from my perspective the fact they had office jobs for Major Accounting/Banking/Finance Firm gave them a veneer of success of which I was secretly very envious. I didn’t really want a job in that area, but nonetheless I wanted to appear as though I knew where I was going in life.

I wanted to earn more money and I wanted to progress towards something, so I applied for and got a job in retail management in a smaller store. I didn’t really have a long-term goal in mind so I figured this would do until I had a bit more clarity about my life. I can’t remember what I expected to get out of the job, but I gave myself a year or two in the role to see what would happen.

While I’d worked under what I thought was a reasonably personable boss all the way through college, this was not the case in my first Real Job After College. My boss turned out to be a complete nightmare. She engaged in what I’ve since learned is common, namely, information hoarding. Everything she touched caused stress. I walked on eggshells around her and put up with a lot of what I would tackle head-on these days.

I never knew if taking the initiative was the right thing or would result in a Serious Conversation about how she knew best. I couldn’t change even minor things without her changing them back or having a Serious Conversation about how she knew best. She was demotivating for other staff and I slowly started to plan my exit.

At the time I was conflicted because I enjoyed the role and many of the people I worked with. It wasn’t a dream job – is there ever such a thing, really?! – but it was a step forward in my working life and I learned a lot about what was important to me personally and professionally and what I was able to tolerate and what wasn’t acceptable to me in any way. I grew up and grew into myself quite a lot.

After nearly two years I had gained enough experience to allow me to move on and upwards a little and I thanked my boss in my head for teaching me more lessons during that time than I ever thought I would learn. She was a terrible boss, had no management skills and was entirely unsuited for her role, but in some ways she was the best boss I ever had.

The Worst Boss I Ever Had…

Just 17

I came across this article yesterday and suddenly I was 14 years old again. I remember reading Just 17 so well. For a girl from a sheltered Irish background reading letters from 16 year olds in exotic places like Nottingham about how they wanted to go on the pill or asking about blow jobs was racy, heady stuff.

The top tips on how to apply mascara, the celebrity gossip, the fashion spreads (Topshop was barely even a thing in Ireland in 1995), the letters page, the posters-it was worth the cover price and more. Teenage dreams can be hard to beat.

I outgrew Just 17 before I turned 17, and its clear the magazine wasn’t really ever aimed at anyone except 14 year olds like me, stuttering through adolescence with a vague sense of unhappiness about everything that was going on around us but in need of some escapism and a glimpse into a slightly more sophisticated world, where some cargo pants and a top with a heart on it from Miss Selfridge, teamed with glittery lip gloss from Boots and White Musk from the Body Shop, was the height of glamour.

I have no rose tinted glasses about insecure 14 year old me, but I wish I’d kept a copy or two of the magazine for nostalgia’s sake. Reading one now, with a whiff of an Impulse body spray wafting from its pages, doesn’t sound like a half bad way to while away half an hour.

Just 17