Throughout the course of our careers, we encounter a few people who make a drastic impact on our lives and careers.  These are people who see something in us that we do not see in ourselves; often they are supervisors, but not always.

I’m interested in hearing about the first person in your career that fits this mold.

My very first situation liked this happened when I was 16 years old, working in a restaurant during high school with the idea of saving up enough money to move back home to Hawaii as soon as I graduate. At the time, having a career in the restaurant industry was not something I thought about, not even a little.  My plans were to go to college back home immediately after graduating high school; the idea of not moving back never crossed my mind.

Jeff took over the restaurant I was in a few months after I started.  At the time, I was a pretty good employee, and knew how to work my tail off, but wasn’t exactly someone who would have been considered “manager material.”  I wasn’t exactly a model citizen outside of work, and that wasn’t much of a secret at the time.  One night while closing, Jeff asked me if I had ever thought about being a manager.  I honestly thought it was a joke, but he was being serious.  He told me that if I was interested, he would train me, and make me a manager when I turned 17.

At first, I thought it was cool, because I knew I’d make a bit more money, and I was already working the type of schedule that a manager would be expected to work.  Also, becoming a manager allowed me to get out of school early to come to work, allowing me to make even more money! Although I’m sure that Jeff explained all of the future career advancement opportunities after taking this step, that wasn’t my motivation so I don’t really remember much of those conversations, but I took the training serious and was surprised at how much I enjoyed being a manager.

Obviously that turned into more for me over the years.  Jeff was still with the company when I graduated high school, but in a different store, and upon graduating I was offered another promotion by the organization and ultimately decided to take it, putting off college to take on a role that would see me running my own restaurant in less than a year after graduating high school.

I often look back on those days an wonder how things would be if Jeff never approached me about management.  There were times early in my career when I seriously doubted whether I had made the right decision, which everyone goes though from time to time.  Today, leadership has become more than just “what I do,” but a huge part of who I am, and I owe a lot of it to someone who noticed something in me that I may have never uncovered on my own.

I’ve had the pleasure of encountering a few other people throughout each stage of my career who helped me just as much as Jeff did, and I attribute a lot of my success to the many lessons I learned from those great leaders who molded me over the years.  I aspire to be that influence on those I work with today, as there is no greater honor in the professional world.

Pretty much anyone who pursues a career in leadership has a “Jeff” of their own.  Hopefully, if you’ve been doing this a while, you are the “Jeff” for many others you have worked with throughout your career.  It’s probably the most important role you can play in someone’s life as it pertains to career related relationships.