5 Crucial Things to Look for in Your First Manager

By Lily Zang

Remember if you’re going through your first job search for a full-time position, probably the last thing on your mind is what kind of manager you’re going to have. That’s completely understandable. After all, you’re probably running around with your hair on fire conducting informational interviewscleaning up your resume, and crafting cover letters. You just need a job. But consider this: Your first manager can either challenge you to be the best person you can be and help you get there—or lock you in place with zero concern for your professional development or goals.

So, if having a successful career beyond this first position is at all important to you, look for these traits in your first manager. How do you find an awesome supervisor like this? During your interview, try asking “Can you tell me about some of the latest accomplishments or professional triumphs some of your team members have had?” If it’s easier than breathing for your potential supervisor to sing the praises of other people, that’s a pretty good sign.

  1. Someone Who Brags About You to Others

Many people have had the experience of a supervisor taking credit for their work. It’s feels pretty horrible. The flip side of that is someone who regularly brags about you to other colleagues. Not only does it feel great and keep you motivated, it means you won’t need to go through the awkward process of bragging about yourself to the higher-ups. Recently invited to speak at a conference? You won’t need to toot your own horn if you have a manager who will do it for you.

  1. Someone Who Encourages You to Branch Out Beyond Your Current Responsibilities

If one of your professional development goals is to develop additional skills or expertise in areas outside of your job description (and it should be if you want to keep moving up), then make sure you have the kind of manager who lets you try out your new ideas—not one who restricts your work strictly to what’s in your job description

  1. Someone Who Mentors You and Cares About Your Professional Development

The benefits of having a mentor have been well documented. So, you can imagine how helpful it is to have a manager who doubles as a mentor. More importantly, it’s vital to your career to find a manager who isn’t more concerned about how many hours you’ve worked than your latest professional accomplishments.

  1. Someone Who Models Professional Behavior

If you’ve gone through a couple of interviews, you probably already have a pretty good sense of basic professional etiquette. But as you take on more responsibilities and start managing people of your own, things get a little bit trickier.This is where having a stellar manager who models professional behavior is very handy in preparing you for more complex workplace situations. There’s no real trick in looking for a manager like this, but watch out for how your potential future manager treats and talks about others.

  1. Someone Who Checks in on You

Lastly, but most importantly, a manager has to actually be present. Independence is great and is certainly something many people cherish in their work environment, but it’s incredibly important to have an accessible manager. A manager who just isn’t around not only prevents you from doing great work—but also won’t be keeping up with your professional accomplishments to share with others or mentoring you to help figure out areas you should grow in.

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