Career Lessons From My Dad

Father’s Day is a great time to reflect on the influence our fathers and father figures have on our lives. This past Father’s Day I spent the day with my dad doing some of the things that he enjoys: ushering in church, eating good food, falling asleep at the movie theatre, driving and good conversation with his sometimes loquacious daughter.

My dad is quiet, thoughtful, ambitious, a huge African music lover, intellectually curious and extremely dedicated to his work. His dedication to his work has given me countless work-related tips from his experience. He has navigated his career in an admirable way. When I worked as a career coach the lessons he and my mom gave me over life infused what I shared with students. I try to be a student of his experience, while trying to stay true to my own path.

This past Sunday, I asked him for his top three tips for young adults in the workforce. Here’s a summary of what he shared:

  1. Treat every assignment, no matter how small, like it is the determinate of your next promotion (or advancement in your career). Assignments at work can seem minuscule, but the way you execute them can significantly impact your trajectory. If you are given a simple task that doesn’t seem important, give your best to making a good product. Your progression in your career is not always based on your title, its based on evidence of your work. Don’t limit your creativity and innovation because of the size of the task. Every assignment is an opportunity for you to provide evidence of the quality of work you are capable of doing.
  2. Communicate clearly. English is not my dad’s first language, and he has always stressed that communication is imperative to a successful career. You can have the best ideas, but if you cannot articulate them in a way that people can understand, the value of your idea can be lost. Don’t avoid situations where you have to speak or write — the more you do it, the better you will get. There are innumerable resources at our disposal to improve our writing and speaking skills, so take advantage of them.
  3. Exude confidence. It is hard for someone to trust your contribution when you don’t present confidently. Lacking confidence can encourage people to find holes in your work where there are none, and diminish your perceived value to the team. It can also affect your work. When I asked my dad how one “gets” confidence, because it seems like some people are born with more than others, his simple answer was — preparation. Irrespective of your innate perception of your abilities, solid preparation can help you make up for what you lack naturally. If you take time to prepare an assignment, instead of doing it last minute, you lay a foundation to support your performance. You cannot always anticipate the nerves that will meet you when you have to speak, present or produce a deliverable — but you can put in the time to prepare it well. So, even if your nerves shake you, you have good work to stand on.

I am still trying to apply everything he’s taught me. I hope you enjoyed your Father’s Day, and a very (very) special shout out to the guy who took me to the office for “Take Your Daughter To Work Day” and keeps giving me tips to thrive in my career.