…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.