Surprising Career Lessons From Dad

Career Lessons From Dad

Most mornings when I was a kid, I would sleepily stumble downstairs to find my dad doing sit-ups on the floor in the living room. By that time, he’d already been up for at least an hour, fitting his almost-daily 5-mile run in before 6:30 a.m. so he could start his hour-long commute to his office in downtown Los Angeles by 7 a.m.

The routine rarely changed. My dad was just like that; you could always count on him to be where you expected him to be and do what he was supposed to do.

He was utterly dependable as an employee, too: He worked as a systems engineer with the same company for 40 years, and he rarely missed a day of work. In fact, he once accrued so much personal time that his company forced him to take every Friday off for three months.

Watching my dad through the years, I learned how hard work, dedication and loyalty can allow you to build a satisfying and rewarding career. My dad came from humble beginnings and rose through the ranks to become a high-level manager, surviving through economic downturns and thriving despite numerous changes in his industry. He retired on the day he turned 65 and is now comfortably enjoying his golden years.

That’s why his best career advice to me was such a surprise. I was at a crossroads in my working life when I was offered an opportunity that came with the potential for great reward – but plenty of risk, as well. I was on the verge of turning it down, reasoning that it was better just to play it safe, and I called my parents to talk it over one more time.

I explained my position to them. My dad listened quietly, and then said, “I think you should take it. You’re not happy where you are. If it works out, it’ll be great. If it doesn’t, no big deal – you can get another job.”

He was right. I took the job, and it was the best move of my career. Turns out my dad was the one to teach me the value of taking a risk, too.

With Father’s Day coming up, I got to thinking about my dad’s unexpected advice, and I started to wonder if my coworkers ever got their own surprising career lessons from their dads. I asked around, and my colleagues came back with these four inspiring tips from Dad:

Pursue your hobbies.

One of my coworkers remembered her dad as a hard worker who served in World War II and took advantage of the GI Bill to study engineering. He eventually got a job at an insurance company, where he started out inspecting boiler rooms and worked his way up to managing the company’s mainframes. But perhaps more than his work ethic, she remembers how he followed his passions, making furniture and building boats in his spare time. “I think his life was a good example of how finding time and energy to devote to the things you love to do can make you more successful and happy at your workplace,” she says.

Make people laugh.

Another colleague told me that she was always inspired by the way her dad used his sense of humor in the office to alleviate stress and forge positive relationships with his colleagues. She’s tried to emulate him in her own work style.  “A little levity, even in stressful situations, can help keep the team’s spirits and motivation high, and also can help build camaraderie with new coworkers,” she says.

Always follow your best judgment, even if it conflicts with your manager’s point of view.

When she was a student and working as a tour guide, one coworker told me, she was ordered by her manager to take a group out during a blizzard – in a van without snow tires or four-wheel drive. Later that evening, when she told her dad what happened, he didn’t just sympathize. Instead, she says, “He pointed out that nobody had physically forced me to lead the tour and, in the future, if my boss asked me to do something that was clearly dangerous, unethical or ill-advised, I should follow my better judgment. It was a valuable lesson that has served me well.”

Make work-life balance a priority.

Old-fashioned stereotypes may paint a picture of dads working long hours to support their families, but one colleague told me she appreciates her father for showing her the value of work-life balance. “My dad worked hard as a mechanical engineer but made every effort to leave work on time, so he’d have time with his family,” she says. “As a child, I never felt that I came in second to his career.”

What’s the best career advice you ever got from your dad? Share in the comments below.

Related post: 5 Career Lessons My Mother Taught Me