10 Career Plan Lessons I Learned From My Father

Having a career plan is important today.  People don’t stay in one company for their entire career as they did in my father’s day.  Even years ago though my father was always worried about being laid off.  He was an engineer and worked for GE for 25 years.  During those 25 years he often commented on how few older faces he saw in his workplace. He never lost his job though and at 62 he got a new and even better job in a different large company where he worked until he retired at 65. Here are 10 career plan lessons that I believe contributed to his being a sought after employee.


1.       Always learning – My father was always studying something. When I was in high school and he was in his 50s he took a physical chemistry class at Harvard.  He spent hours studying for that class and he successfully completed it.  As a scientist he was curious about everything and spent hours in the MIT library reading.  He would have loved having the Internet available to him.

2.       Passion for his work – My father had a passion for his work.  He ate, slept and breathed his work.  He talked incessantly about it to his colleagues, my mother and me.  Even when he was supposed to be relaxing his mind was on his work.  Sleep was his only down time.  He kept a pad of paper and pencil by the bed! (Coach’s note: This was a bit excessive in my opinion.  That he got ideas when he slept meant he wasn’t leaving some down time to be creative.)

3.       Considered an expert in his field – Other scientists and engineers consulted with my father using his expertise to aide them in their work.  He also published papers on his work so people knew about him.  He had several patents and won quite a few awards.

4.       Viewed as a problem solver not a problem maker.  Other scientists came to my father to help them solve technical problems.  He never threw up his hands in frustration because a problem seemed insurmountable but instead dug in to help find a solution or to a fix to the problem.  He found ways to get the company he worked for to support his work most of the time too.

5.       Loved to laugh and had a great sense of humor. My father  was six feet tall and had a big build. He had a deep contagious laugh.  Nothing pleased him more than a good joke.  If he told the joke himself he laughed all the way through the story.  Sometimes it was hard to understand him because he was laughing so hard.  Still his laughter made others laugh too.

6.       Always looking for a new challenging opportunity – My father always checked the job listings in the newspaper and the periodicals that he read.  While he loved his work he was always looking for a new and better opportunity to do the work he loved.  At 62 he found a listing that was interesting to him and to his surprise the company offered him the job.

7.       He was persistent – He took many classes that his employer provided.  When he took physical chemistry  at 50+years it had been over 20 years since he had been in a formal classroom.   It took him many hours to study the material and complete the homework assignments.  He never gave up.  I remember having to tip toe around when he was studying which to me seemed to be all the time he was at home!  Coach’s note: Today employees can’t always wait for an employer to provide training.  To keep up and get ahead  continuous learning is necessary.  The employee must take courses on his/her own.

8.       Used professional associations and alumnae connections to further his knowledge – There was always a stack of professional magazines in my father’s office at home.  He was always reading them.  He was an active member of the associations from which those magazines came.  As a graduate of MIT and McGill he stayed connected to those institutions in order to keep  up with the latest advancements from them.

9.       Kept his network up – Over the years he had many colleagues that he worked with.  Some retired and others went to work for other companies.  He stayed in contact with many over the years.  Several went on to take more responsible high level government or management positions.

10.   Can do attitude – This attitude goes along with persistence and being a problem solver.  He wasn’t negative.  Tell him a problem and he was confident he could solve it.  Need to design a process for something and he was right there working on it.  Of course if he saw something that absolutely would not work or seemed stupid to him he did not hesitate to speak up.  Sometimes this got him into trouble!


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