Your boss today should be someone that you are in touch with for the rest of your life. Sure, you will work for this person—probably for a short time, maybe a year or two—but you are building a relationship for the bigger picture.
You never know how this person will play a part in your life, who they will put you in front of, or the job opportunities they could lead you to. You want to have people in your life who can speak highly of you, talk about your professional capabilities, who can recommend you, and your boss can potentially be that person for the rest of your life.
I started an internship program at my company, Intern Queen Inc, in 2009. At this point, I’ve gone through several cycles of interns and I’m still in touch with a lot of them. I’m frequently responsible for evaluations, recommendations, writing letters, or making calls on their behalf. And you know what? I’m happy to do it. Here are some tips on handling your relationship with your boss:
Your relationship with your boss today isn’t necessarily going to be the relationship you have with your boss a few years from now. Don’t get too hung up on the current relationship. When you work for someone the relationship is always going to be intensified. Eventually, you will both move on and the relationship will develop accordingly. Do your best and don’t get too hung up on what the relationship will look like five years from now.
Some will be great and others not-so-great—it’s typically a personality thing. Some bosses are going to notice some things about you and others will notice other things. Your personality might rub one boss the right way but another boss another way. Such is work life.
The best thing you can do is be consistent—personality wise and work wise. Some people are moody. You can’t change who someone is. Be aware of your boss’s mood and then go on with your day like normal. The best thing you can do for your boss’s mood is act as you normally do. Be the consistent force they can rely on. Don’t let your boss’s mood affect you. You have no idea what they are dealing with after hours.
Whenever people tell me they are waiting for praise, it feels immature to me. Why does someone need to tell you that you are doing a good job? Why can’t you be confident in the work you are putting out into the world? Some people get so caught up in waiting for praise that they get frustrated when the accolades don’t come around frequently. Be confident in your abilities. Your boss isn’t a mind reader and remember, you are expected to do a good job and to do your work—that’s part of the job description.
Try to provide as much advance notice as possible when going out of town or taking days off. Let your boss plan for this as much as possible and of course, only take sick days when really needed. Successful executives need reliable consistent people who aren’t going to take advantage of their time.
One of our former ambassadors, Dalida, who now works at FindLaw.com (a Thomson Reuters company), says, "For me, one of the hardest parts of my first job was understanding everyone’s communication style. There are people who explain everything flat out and there are those who don’t explain anything. There are people who ask for something the day they want it and there are people who ask for things days in advance. It just takes some getting used to. It takes time to learn how everyone functions." When you start a new job, ask your boss about their preferred communication methods and styles. When you have questions should those be handled over the phone, in person, via email, or by text?
I’ve talked to several executives who all say that it’s a great feeling to walk into work every day and see the same person sitting there—day after day. These busy executives need someone to rely on, someone to depend on. The more trust they build with you, the more projects they will send your way. When you are a consistent face that your boss sees in the morning and can rely on to be there already running the show that is a great thing. It will also give you time to prepare for what the day brings.
Leaving before your boss doesn’t set a great precedent. Just sit tight, get organized, and work on tomorrow’s to-do list or work pile. If you’re out of tasks to do, read the industry trades—make the most of your time in the office. You don’t want your boss to come out of his or her office and see you on Facebook regardless of whether it’s after 6 p.m.
They don’t need to know everything about you or your personal life. Unless your boss sends you a friend request, don’t be Facebook friends. It’s okay to follow your boss on Twitter as it’s not as intimate a network as Facebook.
It’s also okay for you to follow them on Instagram if their profile is public. I would wait a good six months before requesting them as a LinkedIn contact. And just be careful: You would like to avoid a situation where you’re supposed to take work home over the weekend, you forget to do it, and your boss sees photos of you and your friends getting wasted at the Malibu Winery all weekend.
Make him or her look good. Think about what you can do to make your boss look great.
There will come a time when something happens and you need to confront your boss. I think we all one day get to that point in our early careers. But you can’t pick every fight. You can’t have a new bone to pick with your boss every day. Think long and hard about the battles you want to pick and if these battles will be worth it in the long run. Some people start talking back and arguing with their bosses and then they can’t stop. At the end of the day, this is your boss—not your friend. It’s work. Don’t take it personally.
(We hope!) Try not to keep secrets (work-related) from your boss. Let them know that you are on their side. If you are ever in a situation where people are bad-mouthing your boss, let him or her know. This will help your boss to trust you and know you are to be trusted. Should you expect this loyalty back? Hard to answer, it really depends on the person.
You want to have a solid, long-term relationship with your boss. If nurtured properly, this relationship will last a lifetime and you will forever have this person in your court and on your team. Many of my friends, peers, and colleagues have their former bosses negotiating contracts for them, putting them up for jobs, and supporting them throughout their careers.
This article is an excerpt from Welcome to the Real World: Finding Your Place, Perfecting Your Work, and Turning Your Job Into Your Dream Career (Harper Business), by Lauren Berger, out April 22nd.
[Image: Flickr user Kumar Appaiah]