Commentary, Opinion

Surround yourself with people who inspire you

You’ve heard the same question a million times: “What’s your dream job?” Somehow, the answer is never, “Working as a summer intern for a relatively unknown brand!”

As a young adult, my answer to the question often mirrors ordinary expectations of success, in the hopes that one day, all of the hard work and money spent on my studies will ultimately mean that I get to update my CV with a position at a big brand.

However, the reality of working for an industry giant can be soured by the presence of a boring and uninspiring leader. The name of a company does not guarantee a young person will learn or thrive there—far from it. Having an inspiring leader–someone who enriches your life more than with just a line on your CV–is much more valuable.

A single internship under an inspirational leader can change your career goals. I say this as an intern whose perspective has been shifted by a single person: A person who radiates passion for what they do, and never stoops to employing fear to drive productivity. My boss’ accessible and personal approach to management has opened my eyes to the difference that a good leader makes. The simple act of knowing her employees’ names and the little things going on in their lives did not make her less intimidating or less effective as a boss–it made people respect her.

I often hear ‘my door is always open’ from management figures. However, I rarely believe it. The ‘open-door policy’ often seems like a futile attempt at appearing approachable. In this case, not only is my boss’ door physically open, but she is always present on the other side, attentive and eager to hear new ideas – no matter what level of the food chain the ideas come from. It’s not often you hear about the founder of a multi-million-dollar company coming to say hello to interns, taking time to chat with them in the corridor, and truly valuing their learning experiences.

However, what makes my boss truly inspiring is not her approachable management style, but how she has made this echo throughout her entire company. A founder who manages not only to create an empire but to nurture values of kindness and inclusivity without sacrificing her professionalism has inspired me.

In just three months, beyond learning countless lessons about working at a tech company, I have found that a boss who will inspire and challenge you is the single most important thing to advance in a career. Brand or paycheck are important, but they need to be accompanied by someone who makes you want to show up to work every day.

An inspiring boss not only makes a workplace more efficient, but promotes personal growth. A boss who promotes a culture of self-starting and self-empowerment has allowed me to grow. I have become more self-assured, and more devoted to my colleagues and the company I work for.

This lesson is applicable outside the professional field, too. Think about your favourite teacher or professor. It is likely you admired them because they shared their passion with you and made you love what they loved. These kind of classes make a student more mature, more informed, and more inspired to take on a otherwise boring assignment. Having that kind of relationship doesn’t have to end in university. Under a motivational leader, hard work goes towards more than a salary. Workers are inspired to impress their bosses, to one day be more like them, and to inspire others in turn.

My attitude as a desperate Arts student in search of a job—any job—has been replaced by a more focused, motivated mindset. I no longer just want a job and success for myself—I want more. I want to inspire someone myself one day, even if it’s just a confused intern with no idea what to do with her life.

We would all like to spend our summers traveling, catching up with friends and family. And yes, watching all your friends have fun without you while you are at work can be demotivating. But if you ever have the chance to learn from someone who truly inspires you, it will stay with you longer than a trip tanning on the beach.

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