Our core values and important lessons we hold close have been cultivated via many aspects in our life. How our first jobs can shape our business and personal brand values is foundational to our careers.
Leaders must treat young people and new staff with care. How they manage young people (under 28yo) under their stewardship can have life long and wide implications.
A positive or negative impact can similarly manifest in all future personal and professional behaviours and leadership traits. A trauma filled and toxic workplace for a young person can follow them across their entire professional and personal life.
The parenting impact
The first years of a child’s life are foundational to their behaviours and beliefs. Good parenting, environments and role models help steer a child through life’s many challenges.
Even deficient parenting and awful circumstances can result in a dogged determination to be the opposite of what was experienced.
Good and bad conditions shape a child’s values, attitudes and purpose. Likewise the experiences and environments encountered in our first few jobs and careers will have an immeasurable impact on our future.
Those initial experiences will affect business and personal brand values either positively or negatively. Hence the magnitude and responsibility of parenting and managing young people can never be underestimated.
Both have a duty to look after those under their watch to not simply navigate the current, but steer imminent social and commercial influence. Most of us had casual jobs as teenagers and can share many a funny and/or horror tale about them.
But it’s those first few permanent jobs that impact deeply as they were the stepping stones to self-sufficiency and aspirations.
Recalling your first jobs
Do you remember how your managers treated you and how they made you feel? Did you feel hope or dread? You may have been fresh out of high school or university with grand ambitions for a specific vocation.
Or you may have fallen into those jobs without a clear direction. However you ended up in those jobs your beliefs and values will have been framed – both consciously and subconsciously.
What lessons did you learn from those jobs and managers that remain with you to this day? How have the negative and positives helped build your business values and the legacy you want to be known for?
How have those experiences formed and shaped your goals, purpose and brand values?
My first few jobs couldn’t have been more dissimilar, and I will be forever grateful for the duality of culture and management styles
My first job experience
At 18yo I often came home crying and shaking after another day of being treated bloody poorly by bosses that were misogynist bullies.
It was my first job as a secretary with a local engineering business in the machine tools and air compressor sector. It was in the days when women had no real voice and juniors were mostly treated as slaves.
I recall each time I made any typing mistakes (using a IBM golf ball typewriter – no computers back in the late 70s) I was castigated and smirked at. Often the documents were dropped at the desk without a blink.
I went to work in fear hoping each day would be better. Any glimmers of kindness and appreciation given by other non managerial staff was grabbed with gusto to keep me going.
No one stood up to look after me through their own fear and I never once received a gift or note for Xmas, birthdays or even my engagement.
Even when I did something amazing it was generally dismissed or commented on with almost a well so you should be doing this right.
Resigning just wasn’t an option back then, especially for women who were told to ‘just put up with it’.
Eventually I was ‘let go of’ because I reached 20yo and that meant I was eligible for an adult wage.
They were not only ass holes but cheapskates too.
Over those 2 years I learnt a lot about engineering, customer service and office procedures. But the biggest lesson I learnt was to never treat junior workers like crap and cause them distress.
I vowed never to dish out to other people what I had endured.
But of course many others who had similar workplace treatment would go on and become bullies themselves with the attitude of ‘I survived it, so you can too – its all part of starting out’. The main lessons from those years that shaped my ‘Why’ were :
- I never want others to be treated like crap so I will treat everyone with the same level of respect – no matter how junior or senior, be they client, supplier or staff
- Stand up for others and show your staff and colleagues that you care and appreciate them in lots of little ways
My next job was so very different
My next job was with a fabulous international adverting organisation and I couldn’t have wished for better managers when I joined.
I was shown compassion, given amazing training and skills and most of all, enormous encouragement to become the best sales person I could be.
I had several very smart training and sales managers who always told me how much they believed in me and that I could do it. They all had a gift in treating others as ‘though they already succeeded’. Again many lessons fed into my ‘Why’, the mains ones being :
- I want others to feel the power of encouragement that I received to build their self belief and esteem
- Training & support makes all the difference. I want others to receive as much as possible to succeed
Managers have a huge responsibility
I share these experiences not just to demonstrate how influential our first few jobs can be in our career and life journey, but also as an impassioned wakeup call and plea to leaders and managers.
I know of many managers with a mindset of ‘well I was being treated like that as a junior or when I started out and survived, so will you’. Or they some have just blindly repeated the models of behaviour they witnessed without thought or understanding.
Of course there are managers who want to inflict pain onto others to make up for the way they were treated (that’s another subject). But in any case the world has changed.
Workplaces & leaders must step up
Workplace bullying and toxic workplaces have reached epidemic proportions with dire financial, social, mental health and productivity implications.
Combined with increased family and social issues, community violence and the pressures of social media etc life is particularly difficult for young people to traverse.
We need to be kinder and show greater empathy more than ever before. Often young people who come into their first jobs haven’t had the best start in life for a myriad of reasons.
And as a manager if you employed them, you have an opportunity to make a difference.
Leaders and business owners must recognise and accept the huge responsibility they have in developing young people and their futures. It is indeed a privilege to be able to show our young people the way and shape their future values.
Take every opportunity to guide the young people in your commercial care, and in doing so, reflect on the core values and lessons you learned from your first jobs.
A version of this article was also published in Smart Company