Along with the rampant tie purchases, restaurant specials, and childhood vacation photos popping up on Facebook, many people see Father's Day as a time to reminisce about favorite memories and conversations they’ve had with their dads over the years.
If you’re a working professional who grew up with a professional dad, you’ve likely received some work advice from your father. The words of wisdom they shared may have helped you grow your career, boost your confidence, and appreciate the parental support system you've had backing you. To honor the dads who've played a key role in the women we've become, we asked 15 professional women to share the best career tips they've heard from their dads. The resulting list contains useful counsel we all can incorporate into our professional lives.
“I worked for my dad for many years and when I was 26, we started a business together as partners in the company. He taught me to be nice to everyone and lead by example. Our offices were close enough that we could hear each other. If he heard a sharp edge to my voice, he used to sing from the 'Mary Poppins' song, ‘Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.’ I lost my dad when I was 30 and he was just 54. Twenty-seven years later, I am older than he was when he died, yet I still hear the song in my head and it keeps things in perspective, which is another great skill.” — Dianne McKay, president of Mustang Marketing, Thousand Oaks, CA
"My dad told me to never use 'it's just business' as an excuse to do something unkind. Your personal brand is the most important asset you will have in your career, so you have to protect it and make it something you can be proud of." — Audrey Fairbrother, marketing manager at Worldwide101, Denver, CO
"My dad, a building contractor, had five sisters. Most of them struggled with financial dealings in their marriages. Ever since I started my very first job (a paper route!), he told me straight-out: 'Always have your own money. Save as much as you can; invest it carefully, and make sure it's just in your own name.' I've followed his advice and advise my clients to do the same, and while I'm happily married, my money's locked down tight.” — Nancy McSharry Jensen, CEO of The Swing Shift, Seattle, WA
“My dad said that I should 'strive to be in a room with people who are better than you, always.' Odd advice at first glance, but it really stuck with me. If you are always surrounded by people who are better than you in certain aspects, then you will constantly be challenged and learning. I love to be the underdog in a room, because I will learn a huge amount just by listening to others talk.” — Michele Konopi, beverage director at SAVONA, Philadelphia, PA
“The best advice I received from my dad is 'prove your worth.' He taught me that when you demonstrate your value (whether to your employer or your customers), you will find success. Work hard and prove that you are invaluable, and that what you do makes a difference.” — Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation, Calabasas, CA
"One piece of advice my father gave me that I still lean on heavily was this: steer clear of people who bend the truth. If a candidate for a job isn't being totally honest with me about their skills or experience, or if they give me answers that sound 'fuzzy,' the interview process ends there. Honesty is critical to building trust, the foundation of all high-performing teams in business." — Nataly Kelly, VP of international operations and strategy for HubSpot, Boston, MA
“Dad was an auto dealer and as a young girl, I saw his best friend and our neighbor in a new car, but not one he sold. I asked if he was upset and he said that he wasn’t because he didn't like to do business with friends as it can ruin a relationship if things go badly. It's fine to get friendly with clients, but I have always been careful when dealing with friends in a business context.” — Laurie Kahn, owner and CEO of Media Staffing Network, Scottsdale, AZ
“My dad always said that he ‘never worked a day in his life’ because ‘when you love what you do, it’s not work.' He also told me to ‘always enjoy what you do, and if you don’t, then find a way to do something else that makes you happy.’” — Coreyne Woodman-Holoubek, co-founder of Contracted Leadership, Madison, WI
"The best piece of work advice I ever got from my dad is: ‘There's nothing like being your own boss.' He always said it, and he always was, at least by the time I was born. He started his own business in his 20s. His entrepreneurial spirit inspired me to work for myself. I always knew I wanted to start my own business and when the time was right, I did — and I've never looked back. I have him to thank for planting that seed in my head.” — Michelle Garrett, writer and public relations consultant at Garrett Public Relations, Columbus, OH
“My father is one of the best relationship builders I've ever encountered. When I was growing up, he taught me to always consider all angles of an argument. While I think this was (at least, in part) to help minimize arguments between my siblings and me, it’s advice that has certainly helped me in my career as a communications professional. Considering the other person’s point of view has helped me in job interviews, negotiations, and networking. Rather than approaching a situation with my own objectives up front, I first acknowledge and address ‘what’s in it for them.' I find that doing this puts me on the front foot in any situation, and makes another person more willing to listen to and also meet my needs.” — Jennifer McDermott, head of communications of Finder.com, New York, NY
"I would say as an attorney, my dad didn't and doesn't really concern himself with what other people think, and he plows forward with unseen determination. He told me to never give up and get angry when its time to get angry. He told me he was proud of me and loved me. Over and over and over again. Those personality traits, more than any formal advice he ever gave, made me more ambitious, honest, blunt, and also empathic which ultimately served me well so far in my career." — Angela DeFranco, product group lead, HubSpot, Boston, MA
“My dad, a fellow small business owner, has been one of my mentors since I started my branding and marketing design studio 17+ years ago (I officially launched it on his birthday, by the way). He always tells me not to get discouraged when something goes wrong — instead of calling it a failure, consider it an ‘education.’” — Lidia Varesco Racoma, art director and designer of Lidia Varesco Design, Chicago, IL
“The best career advice my dad ever gave me came when I was in my first management role: ‘Always lead by example,' he said. I didn't really get it at first; after all, it means different things to different people. But to me, leading by example is about having the same expectations for myself that I do for my team. And more than anything, it's about really being ‘in it’ with your team.” — Jamie Young, editor at Student Loan Hero, Los Angeles, CA
"My Dad is someone that I have admired since I was a little girl — not as the award-winning restauranteur and chef he's known for, but for his career path. Not a classically trained chef, his path includes never finishing his college degree, becoming a roadie for a rock band and instead of going to cooking school, starting as a dishwasher in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The day the line cook didn't show up, he was thrown a knife and told to start chopping to be ready for dinner service. On days when I question my career path or when I fret that I am 28 years old and don't have a five-year plan, I think of his journey and the experiences that led him to his extreme success. He always told me that success doesn't happen with just luck. It's a combination of hard work, persistence and a sprinkle of luck." — Sophie Hamersley, PR & Communications manager, HubSpot Culture, Boston, MA
“My father was a career Army officer and Vietnam veteran. When I decided to join the Air Force in the 80s and enter a traditionally male career field, he gave me the advice that he lived by: ‘Engage brain before operating mouth.’ It's both powerful advice for career and for life.” — Susan Santoro, owner of Organized 31, Colorado
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