A career in the main spent writing for women's magazines and websites means I've nearly always had a female boss. Some of these women have been great, inspirational even; some have been downright awful.
Awful not because they gave me terrible jobs to do (although there are stories from my work experience days that make The Devil Wears Prada
look like a fairytale), or told me what I was doing was bad, but simply that ambition, or the notion that maybe, just maybe I might want their job one day, was something to be squashed out of me, and sooner rather than later.
Marie O'Riordan, former editor of Elle
and Marie Claire
, where I worked with her, did none of these things. In fact, when she left the magazine we worked on together, she actually encouraged me to go for her job (I didn't get it, of course, but the vote of confidence helped crystallise some deep-rooted aspirations I hadn't dared yet articulate.)
Career progression aside, it was actually the little things she instilled in me that have made the biggest difference to how I now work as an editor.
About a month into working for her, she discovered I'd been starting work at 7.30am – normal practice in the company I'd come from. Her response? Fine. Start as early as you like, but you'd better not still be here come 7pm. In fact, I expect you out the door by 4.
That didn't mean you weren't expect to work hard, quite the opposite, but if you couldn't do your job in the time allocated, then either you had too much work on your plate, or you were crap at time management. Either way, you needed to get it sorted, not work 24/7.
She surrounded herself by people she trusted, and if you weren't someone she knew well, she made sure she got to know you super-quick, from the names of all your family to your favourite jeans brand (and always noticed when you'd bought a new pair).
None of this would mean anything, however, if she didn't inspire me with passion for what she did. I discovered very quickly that I work best when the people higher up the paygrade than me truly believe in what they're doing, which in turns mean I truly believe in what I'm doing.
I tagged along to a friend's dinner party recently, which was awash with lawyers and bankers, all of whom earn at least double, if not triple, what I do, and who did everyone want to speak to? Me. "God, you're one of those annoying people who love what they do, aren't you," one interrupted me, halfway through my 'average-work-day spiel'.
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