My dad has been giving me career advice for as long as I can remember. When I was an undergrad at the University of Miami, he would drive down from Boca to run with me and spend the entire time telling me how I should study to be an engineer. “It is the highest paying job for hispanic women right out of school,” he would say matter-of-factly.
I don’t always listen to him. I definitely didn’t when it came to majoring in engineering. (I don’t have a facility for math, so the field didn’t seem prudent or enticing.) Instead, I ended up with a triple major in Marine Affairs and Policy, International Studies, and French Language and Literature. I also didn’t listen when he said to go into the private sector, choosing instead to build a career in government that is going on six years.
To my poor dad’s dismay, I ignore most of his recommendations. Everything he says sounds right—his advice to become a private sector engineer certainly worked for my younger sister Lucy, who found success in California building cool stuff—most of it just isn’t right for me. But, amidst his mostly maligned pointers, he shared one nugget of wisdom that has proved super valuable in my professional journey: to build and foster a network.
I don’t know why I decided to listen to and apply this one piece of advice—perhaps because I’ve seen it work successfully as I’ve followed my dad’s career. As he’s gone from a Mexican naval officer, to a telecommunications executive, to a business development and sales executive, he has formed relationships that have been clutch in unexpected circumstances. For example, he recently won a multi-year contract because an assistant he worked with in the ’90s, with whom he has since kept in touch, helped him secure a hard-to-get meeting with a Mexican mogul.
Motivated by his success, I’m trying to learn from my dad’s networking savvy. The man doesn’t let a special occasion pass without sending each of his contacts a congratulatory e-mail. Alas, I too try to reach out to everyone in my network during birthdays and holidays. He is also very good about passing along articles that his contacts (me included) will find useful. It is through maintaining regular, meaningful communication that he continues to strengthen relationships when most of us allow them to fizzle.
While I have never scored an elusive meeting with a powerful Latin American businessman, I have seen the worth of my network in action. It helped me get the interview that led to my current job and it helps me every day when I have to work with people in other organizations to solve problems. Heck, it occasionally even gets me access to free technical advice from consultants. For these reasons, having and maintaining a robust network is one of my most prized assets and the best career advice I have ever received from my dad.
(A huge shout out and a happy father’s day to my dad! Thank you for being patient and caring enough to keep doling out advice when I clearly have a track-record of ignoring it. I wouldn’t be where I am without you and for that I am forever grateful.)
And now, for your quote of the day courtesy of my dad:
“Work hard in silence. Let success make the noise.” —Frank Ocean