I have been thinking a lot about impact. How much impact does one person have on another?

I am managing an internship-to-hire program for this start up, and as I prepare to leave this Friday (just another job transition for me, I’ve done this a few times now), I am cognisant that I am the first manager that many of these recent college graduates will have in their career. Is there a burden or a responsibility in being the first of something for someone else? I’m not sure.

The relationship was a short one for sure. I was only their manager for just under two months but I know that there is a trust there. Feels like having children, though I say that as someone who has never had children. It feels as if they look to me for guidance, for stability, for instruction – that’s normal when you manage people and especially when managing teams. People are always looking around at their surroundings, at others, looking for social cues or really any cue as to what they should do, how to behave, if there is a threat in the environment or not. Animals in a savannah watch the giraffe’s reaction because the giraffe has a longer neck and see predators out in the distance. Experience is like that longer neck of foresight – managers and more seasoned professionals and can see the danger out in the distance.

As I consider the reasons for my leaving – there were fortunately more pull factors than push, I still think it necessary to summarize succinctly the perils of most job opportunities. Below I’ll list some of mine:

  1. A mom and pop owned business – call a start-up what you want, but there is usually an in crowd that first starts the business. It is usually Co-Founders and their trusted friends, afterall, who else will work with you on an idea for little to no compensation and with whom you can trust non-protected innovative ideas to?

    My previous start-up had a leadership team of individuals who were in their mid-thirties to forties but who knew each other from high school or around the block. This current start-up is technically a husband and wife shop, the wife wrote the sales playbook and sits on the Board, while the husband is the CEO and Co-Founder. That nepotism isn’t unusual in business, but as someone who comes from corporate and is familiar with the compliance and regulations of publicly-owned institutions (and thus the reputational pain and liability of public scorn), that dynamic is unnerving for me. I support my livelihood from my salary and to know that my paycheck is more or less at the whim of, not a board or leadership team, but a small couple feels like a fiefdom. I don’t like it. I would prefer my judgement by random assortment of my peers, a diverse jury of sorts. Private companies, start-ups, mom and pop shops don’t offer that kind of trial.
  2. Earning potential and learning potential – I like to summarize my decision to leave as a decision made when I feel that either of those potentials are close to hitting a ceiling. Or say the container is about to hit capacity and the beverage inside is about to overflow. I don’t want to overflow, it’s messy and annoying.

    In a career you can make more money by solving MORE problems or more COMPLEX problems. At my last corporate role, I felt like they wanted to give me MORE work rather than more INTERESTING and COMPLEX work. I was very annoyed by that before I even truly understood why that was so. So I left.

    In this place, I am expensive and so the expectations of my role and responsibilities are expansive. But being expensive on this payroll is actually just average in a regular corporation. What is a leadership position at this start-up is just supportive business management role elsewhere. Do I like being seen as leadership? Yes. But I can’t eat a title; I know that ego and job titles feed you a different kind of nourishment but I prefer mine as cold hard cash. Give me the money.
  3. Benefits – the only benefits from this job are the salary (which is great!) and health insurance. Oh how I took for granted the 401k and company match, and the disability insurance, vacation days and sick days, short-term disability and long-term disability. Regular work hours. I took all of that for granted when I moved to start-up; but now I know better. I move to my next role with fresh eyes and a grateful mind. I am never taking company sponsored benefits for granted ever, ever again.

As I leave, I meet with the newbies and ask them what their future ambitions are. How do their current decisions align with their dreams? Two want to move to New York City, one wants to stay in Long Island with family. All want a happy life.

I want a happy life for them too. Young people, full of hope in a strange world – I wish them well in their endeavors and however I can be of help now and in the future. Because I was them, only yesterday.

Impact. What does it mean to make an impact?