Forging My Own Career: Lessons From My Deceased Father
September 2001. My dad left the military after 17 years of service.
When our moving van arrived in Louisiana, I had no idea that I wouldn’t see my dad for another year.
We were staying with my mom’s parents while he began searching for a post-military career. I also had no idea how hard it would be. The months of rejections. Or the hiring managers that didn’t value military service.
Fast forward to 2020. It’s a pandemic. And after frustration with an unsuccessful job search, I began forging my own path as a done-for-you copywriter.
It was terrifying. I had no idea if it would work in a seasick economy. And unfortunately, I didn’t have my dad to ask for advice. He had passed away when I was 13. I felt like I was navigating a jungle in the dark without a map.
But on Father’s Day, reflecting on my dad, I realized there were many lessons he taught me about building your career. Only I didn’t know it yet. And I don’t think he did either. It was watching him as a kid, trying to make it into a dream field of his own. And that undoubtedly helped me over a decade later.
You Can Be the Sweetest Peach on the Tree, but Someone Still Hates Peaches.
For a long time, my dad struggled in his job search. Mostly because people didn’t see the value in his military service (which is still a problem for veterans).
Military service, just like any other experience, provides you with lots of transferable skills for just about any job you choose. Skills like time management, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, etc. But still, it wasn’t good enough in some hiring teams’ eyes.
Here’s the thing: it’s easy to blame ourselves in our career search. We frantically update our resume 20 times, go to all the mock interviews, and still get rejected. So we think it’s us. But sometimes, it’s them.
You can be the tastiest peach on the tree, but if someone hates peaches, it doesn’t matter. You can’t convince people who undervalue you to see your worth. And it’s honestly not worth your time. The best thing is to move on and say “next.” Keep moving forward.
Be Willing to Learn New Skills.
Careers are constantly growing and evolving. It seems to be at an accelerated pace now in our more techy world. And we always need to be willing to learn new things to thrive in our careers.
I know the “Learner’s Mindset” sounds corny. And if I’d lead off the article with this, you’d have left. But remember, Einstein said, “When you stop learning, you start dying.” Which is a *very* dramatic way of saying, you need to keep learning beyond school to stay relevant.
To join federal law enforcement, my dad had to learn lots of new skills. He had fitness tests, ropes courses, and more technical training for six months. It was a long time, but it was necessary to get to where he wanted to go.
When I started on my career path, I knew I needed to build new skills. I read tons of books on copywriting and sustainable branding. And completed multiple digital marketing courses. It took time. But I knew I needed to invest in it to provide my clients with the best service possible and build my business.
Especially if you’re making a career change, don’t shy away from learning new skills. It can take an extra day on the weekend or an hour during lunch, but remember, you’re investing in yourself.
Success Isn’t Overnight (Seriously).
It took my dad over a year to “make it.” He had to take a side job working in a box factory to support us. All while being away from his family. I can’t ask him how he felt, but I can’t imagine it was easy.
Success isn’t going to happen overnight. No matter what you see peddled on the internet. Because people post, “I made my first 6k a month!” They don’t post, “I’ve been rejected 24 times before I got the book deal.”
It’s easy to hide the hard road you climb behind an Instagram filter.
Success is often slower than the last bit of honey at the bottom of the jar. It does take time, but you’ll eventually get there. And that’ll taste sweet.
And while that isn’t the answer you probably wanted to hear, remember each day is a small step forward, closer to your goal. For him, it was landing a job in the federal government. For me, it was finally landing those first few copywriting clients. It won’t happen tomorrow, but don’t quit.
I’ve learned that although I can’t call my dad for advice on things (be it career or how to get the toilet tank to stop running), there were a lot of lessons I internalized from watching him.
I don’t know that I’d have had the stamina to go into business in what seems like the worst possible moment otherwise.
And if you’re a dad reading this (or a parent playing both roles), Happy Father’s Day. And if you’re a person without their dad, or without their kid, for whatever reason, I see you too.