The Best Career Advice Our Dads Ever Gave Us

Dad always had it together.

Back when we were crawling around on the carpet figuring out how gravity worked, he and mom were making sure there was still a roof over that rug. Once we finally got the hang of walking and started fending for ourselves, his lessons about how to make it in the world became more valuable than ever. The older we get, the more relevant those lessons are.

We've compiled some of our dads' best advice that shapes the way we do our jobs. Happy Father’s Day!

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When I was little, my dad found out he was sick and wouldn’t have that much time left. He decided he wanted to teach me how to read while we were still together. I make a living reading and writing now, so the message that reading is so important was very valuable advice. -- Braden Goyette, senior editor

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Something changed when my grandfather died. My dad was always affectionate. That is, when he was around. He worked all the time -- weekends, too. When he came home, he was usually tired and untalkative. Grandpa’s funeral was the first time I saw him cry. Yet, he wasn’t torn up over memories, but over regrets of what went unsaid between them. He vowed on that day to spend more time with us and to tell us -- as often as he could -- that he loved us. My dad still works hard, often six days a week. But now, when he is with us, he’s a total mush.

Originally, I was going to share advice he gave me when I first became a manager at my college newspaper -- when you have power, empower. Respect your colleagues, and they’ll follow you into battle. But, when I thought about it, the advice he has never articulated is what rings the truest for me: Always make time for your loved ones. Life is about a lot more than a paycheck. -- Alexander C. Kaufman, business editor

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My dad, Sid, wrote me a letter shortly after I graduated from college that has helped guide me throughout my career. "Keep in mind that personal integrity is critical, and if lost, is very difficult to ever recover," he said. "Don’t be tempted by shortcuts. Be honest, trustworthy and a man of your word: a reputation for honesty and integrity will carry you far." -- Whitney Snyder, executive editor

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My father had always told me it doesn’t matter how much education you have; if you aren’t reliable you are worthless! He always said if it came down to a choice between someone who was educated and unreliable or someone who was not educated but reliable, he would choose reliability every time. Anyone can be taught but not everyone can be reliable.

This advice has been core to my work ethic since he said that to me when I was 18! Best advice ever given! -- Damon Dahlen, photo editor

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paul lavender

My dad admittedly doesn't know much about working in journalism, but he does know about working hard. He tells me almost daily that I better "work my butt off" to remind my colleagues (and bosses!) why I'm here and why they should keep me around. When things get hectic and I'm feeling overwhelmed, he reminds me that life's too short to stress out too much. "All you can do is work hard," he says. He's also my biggest cheerleader, telling me I should be proud of the work I'm doing and reminding me he's always proud of me, no matter what. -- Paige Lavender, politics editor

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My father advised me to listen closely, be present in anything I do, and to trust my instincts as I pursue my passions and vocation. I don't have his discipline, but I like to think that his example has informed the way that I approach research, structure, and synthesis of complex topics in my own writing.

Like many people in my generation, the pathway I've taken to my present work has led me through different industries and workplaces. There have been some significant ups and downs in that journey, but my father has always been there to offer steady, thoughtful counsel as I thought about what to do next. He advised me to acknowledge my emotions and resist letting them drive my decisions, waiting a beat before acting or speaking. While I wish that I’d taken his advice over the years more consistently, I hope that as I've grown older, I've become a wiser man as a result. -- Alexander B. Howard, senior editor for technology and society

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As a business owner, my dad always gave me the career advice to do my absolute best -- or in his words, "maximize your gifts" -- no matter what. Whether that is writing up a report or keeping your office organized, you should always do your personal best. And even right now, sitting on my desk is a paperweight from my dad with the inscribed words: Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence. -- Jacqueline Howard, associate science editor
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If you need self-motivation, ask yourself the big question: How do you see yourself in five years, twenty years, and fifty years? Gauge your success by how well you've managed your health, relationships, and money in those periods of time. Happiness comes from finding balance between the three. - Mia Fermindoza, photographer
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My dad has taught me a lot about work -- to always strive to be better, to not be afraid of switching paths, to value working with good people. But my favorite piece of advice ended up having little to do with his career (construction management) and a lot to do with mine: When I was a kid, he told me to read the sports pages religiously to learn to write well. From elementary school until I left for college, I started each day with the San Francisco Chronicle's Sporting Green, admiring the craft of the baseball beat writers who managed to make each game story its own stirring narrative. I can only hope their clever ledes rubbed off on me even a little. Old habits die hard -- my favorite Giants blog is still the first thing I read every day (and my dad will always be my most important reader). -- Mollie Reilly, deputy politics editor

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"You always make good decisions," my dad always says. It started as life advice but has carried over as career advice whenever I've been pondering whether to try something new in my job or move to a new company. It's good to know he trusts me, but I've realized he's also reminding me I should trust myself, and that's something I need to hear every once in a while too. -- Sara Bondioli, deputy politics editor

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“When it’s right, you’ll know.”

The best career advice I ever got from my dad was to trust and follow my heart. When the decision is right -- whether it be an internship or a job offer or a decision in the office -- he always told me I would just know. I’d know deep down if it was the right decision. Money should never be a focus point or reason to pressure you into anything that might make you less happy. At the end of the day, you have to do what makes you happy. If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

Luckily for me, my dad is the hardest working man I know. He gave up everything to work so that my brother and I could have a better life than he did. So I learned quickly that doing what you love can often come with a lot of hard work first. Watching my dad when I was young, I knew I wanted to be as big as he was some day. It wasn’t hard for me to grow up into a driven and motivated working woman. I had the best role model there is. -- Catherine Taibi, deputy media editor

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My dad was a Franciscan friar for seven years before meeting my mom, leaving the Order, going to medical school at Georgetown and becoming an emergency physician. At the small-town Pennsylvania hospital where he worked for over 20 years, he often worked 60- to 72-hour weeks, made up of grueling 12- and 24-hour shifts.

I don't remember him ever missing a day of work, and I don't remember him ever -- not even once -- complaining about his job. I think that's because my dad loves what he does for a living, and understands that it's a privilege to love what he does for a living. That understanding, I think, creates a sense of duty and responsibility.

I'm a lucky brat to have the job I have, and I can only hope I treat that job with the same care and generosity with which my dad treats his. -- Christopher Mathias, New York reporter

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kim bellware dad bellware

Whether it was putting Christmas lights on a tree or working a menial summer job, my dad’s stance on personal work ethic was clear: “Don’t do anything half-assed.”

He has good manners and doesn’t actually remember using those words, but when your pops tells you not to half-ass something, the message tends to stick. He’s always been an entrepreneur, an idea guy, and believed that no matter how humble your origins or your job title, work to be the best at whatever you do. If you’re going to work the mailroom, be the best mailroom worker the company has ever seen. Even if it’s not glorious, no one can take away the fact that you did a good job.

He also reminded me the respect of your colleagues was crucial. Dad made sure I knew respect was something that, like a good reputation, has to be earned, not demanded. -- Kim Bellware, associate Chicago editor

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lena auerbuch

Choose a career that is interesting, challenging, and one that you love. It's important to like the people you work with. Have an entrepreneurial mindset. Start putting into your 401(k) as soon as you can. Invest in stock -- but be smart about it. Don't be afraid to start something new -- a company, new job, etc. Keep a record of everything. And save, save, save! -- Lena Auerbuch, senior manager of lifestyle communications & partnerships

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marc janks

My father has always given me these little bits of advice.

“Always be grateful for all that you have.
Love and health go a long way to put one on a positive road.
Relationships matter.” -- Marc Janks, manager of multimedia platforms

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marcos saldivar

My dad worked the graveyard shift as a nurse so he was always there to kiss us goodnight and he was there when we were awake -- it was as if he never left! I would always jump off the bed early on the weekends to go jump on him the moment he walked through the door. He was always in scrubs and carried a stethoscope, so you can see how a precocious 5-year-old would mistake him for a doctor. When I would call him "Dr. Saldivar" while pressing the stethoscope against his chest to check his heart beat, he would kindly remind me: "Yo no soy doctor, mijo, pero tu puedes ser doctor." Meaning: "I am not a doctor, son, but you can be a doctor."

I grew up feeling like I had no limits. And when it came to navigating through the college process and then deciding to move across the country to pursue a career in journalism -- both processes that were new to our family -- he never questioned my decisions nor my ability to succeed. He instilled in me the notion that I was capable and that has helped me take risks. And perhaps the most important thing he imparted to me was that it wasn't the most educated ones who got ahead; it was those who worked hard and exuded passion. This has defined my work ethic. -- Marcos Saldivar, assignment editor

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My dad said to never burn bridges. You never know when you'll meet people or have to work with people again. And he was so, so very right. He also said that all you have in life is your reputation, and if it's tarnished, that's it. -- Christina Anderson, lifestyle editorial director