What’s the best career advice your dad has ever given you?

With Father’s Day approaching this weekend, that’s the question I asked around the Cpl Group, but the answers I got were much more than career advice.

The advice was varied, but it was the stories, sense of pride and emotion that stood out the most.

Here’s a selection of my colleague’s most memorable pieces of advice they’ve received from their fathers, an insight into their dads’ careers and a glimpse into the various ways parents’ careers can impact personalities and how we grow up.

Lisa Holt, Cpl MD, and her Dad Alfie who worked in the clothing label business

My Dad now (87) trained as an accountant but by default ended up in the clothing label business. He worked for a company for many years before going out on his own in his late 40’s.

He became the go-to guy in Dublin and around Ireland for many small retailers who wanted to brand their clothing their own way. He would help them design the label and then he would get it made for them and shipped, mainly from Germany.

When he worked from home, I was always listening to him persuading clients to go with his merchandise, he was very persuasive and very charming, and he still is!

He has always been my trusted advisor and even at 87 I still go to him for advice. The key things that stand out, and that he has never wavered on, are:

  • Be true to yourself and listen to your instinct…. It will never fail you
  • Always remember if you can count 5 best friends on your right hand you are doing really well because at the end of the day your happiness is your own… only you can be happy
  • Always be kind Lisa, but most of all always be grateful

Siobhan O’Shea, Client Services Director, and her Dad, Patrick, a sergeant in An Garda Síochána

My Dad Patrick was a proud sergeant in An Garda Síochána. Sadly, he died at 36 after a 4-year battle with cancer. I was 10 and the oldest of 4. My Mum was just 32, which I can’t even imagine now that I’m much older than that.

Despite my young age, I remember many things about my father and his passion for his work.

He was sent to England as an 18-year-old to become an accountant but hated it from the outset. Dad had always wanted to become a Garda. Despite many objections, he packed in the accounting in London to follow his true calling. He never looked back. He loved his job and helping people.

Growing up in Kilkenny, our family regularly had people telling us about the difference he had made in their lives. He had huge pride in public service, the values the uniform represented and the vital role the Gardai have in the community.

The greatest lesson I learned from my Dad is life is short so be happy in the work you choose and the life you lead. It’s never too late to change careers.

Even though he lived a short life, my Dad lived it to its fullest by following his heart and passions.

Sharon Vize, HR Director & her Dad, Brendan, a lighthouse keeper

My dad Brendan served as a lighthouse keeper for 33 years, and a further 23 years as an attendant at Wicklow Head. A total of 56 years’ service to the Commissioners of Irish Lights.

I attended my Dad’s retirement 2 years ago and I’ve never felt as proud of him as I did that day. He was the longest-serving member as a lighthouse keeper and over the period of his tenure, he worked in some of the most daunting places around the Irish coast that we would never dream of going to.

When I reflect on how my dad used to get to work, which was by helicopter or boat, I didn’t think much of it at the time. It was normal for us, to be standing at the Baily Lighthouse in Howth waving him off, and not seeing him for a month.

I always remember my Mum getting everything ready for my Dad as he was heading off, as he had to bring all his clothes, food and any other items that he needed. Once he went to work, he couldn’t pop home to pick up anything he forgot.

It’s funny when people say to my dad how romantic working on a lighthouse must have been, as he says himself there was nothing romantic about it! It was a lonely and isolated job and had its moments of danger thrown in that the rest of us will never experience or understand.

I always knew that my Dad had an important job. It was his job was to make sure that the light worked, and the lighthouse was maintained, ultimately keeping everybody safe at sea.

My dad has this amazing work ethic, of taking great pride in what you do and doing it right, being the best that you can be and he has always instilled that in me and my brothers.

He has always encouraged me to be transparent and honest about what I am doing whether it is work or personal. Even though my Dad has retired, my Mum manages the holiday home lighthouse at Wicklow head. Lighthouses will always be in our family, we all have little lighthouses scattered around our houses, we are all a little bit lighthouse mad!

Eileen Wall, HR Recruitment Consultant, and her Dad, James, children’s clothes wholesaler

My Dad James was a salesman. He started his career working for the Nesbitt family who owned Arnotts and within 5 years started his own business as a wholesaler for children’s clothing.

He sold to all the major department stores at the time; Arnotts, Switzers and Brown Thomas and had the agency for Ton sur Ton and Trespass back in the day.

He was an incredibly hard worker who came from a humble start in Drumcondra. He was driven and provided our family with love, kindness, support and encouragement.

The best business advice he gave me was to be a ‘HIT’. I remember saying to him, “but Dad, I won’t always be a ‘HIT’.” He assured me I would and gave me his interpretation of ‘HIT’. Honesty, Integrity and Trust. “Keep those things with you Eileen and you will always be doing your best, that will make you a HIT.” I’ve never forgotten it.

On October 19th, 2006 my Dad left this world with the same dignity that he lived his life with after a 6-day diagnosis with cancer. I am grateful that I got to hold his hand when he left as he held mine when I came into the world. Everything changed from that day and is still not the same. I remember him daily, talk to him still but mostly, I am so proud that he was my Dad and the values he instilled in me.

I’ve been the luckiest girl in the world to have been his only Daughter and I will miss him forever.

John Twomey, Associate Director at Flexsource and his Dad, John Kevin, CEO of Zetor Tractors

My Dad started out working for O’Shea’s Car sales as a junior sales exec. He worked his way up to sales manager and managed a team of 25 staff over 4 branches. This is a bit like me in Cpl, I started off as a junior consultant 9 years ago and I am now a Director managing 20 or so direct reports.

My dad imported the first Japanese car into Ireland with O’Shea’s and had lots of experience with import/export. O Shea’s was bought out in the ’80s by Zetor Tractors and my Dad was made GM. If he had not changed the business to agriculture-based sales, it would have closed completely.

Throughout his career, my dad has had to make major decisions from setting up branches in Ireland and changing the overall product line. He never looks back and has always made the move at the right time, never waiting or delaying.

His biggest move was when he was made CEO in the USA. This involved managing a multimillion business unit with over 50 staff.

This is the advice my Dad always gave me:

Life and career decisions are like the song ‘The Gambler’ by Johnny Cash & Kenny Rogers. You must make the right move at the right time, there is no point waiting or taking stock, you always have to make the right move for yourself and always look forward.

“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run. You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table. There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.”

He also told me whatever you do, do it right and put 100% into it. “If you’re gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right.”

Lisa Broderick, Director Cpl Cork, & Gearoid Collins, Recruitment Consultant Cpl Cork, and their Dad, Gerard

Our Dad started as a Clerk in Revenue in his early 20’s and ended up managing a business for them in the Cork region.

He was there until himself and our Mum retired in their late 50’s to the country (lucky them!) Mum is a bit maverick – more entrepreneurial and had her own business attached to our house. Dad kept her grounded, doing her books and helping her to run it in the background.

They were both hard working. She’s a natural salesperson and was happy to take risks without always agonising over the consequences, whereas Dad was the steady Eddy who believed in stability, structure, compliance and processes. Doing things the right way with a strong strategic plan.

Dad is a big believer in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.  He had one sick day in his entire career, and we would want to have had pneumonia to get a day off school.  In fact, the only day we had off in primary was when our grandparents passed away and we were at the funeral.

Good time keeping was instilled into us early on, if you weren’t early, you were late.

When we were younger, he worked long hours and could be late in the evenings, but he always made sure he was home for lunch. In some ways, he was ahead of his time in terms of flexibility and work-life balance.

We were thought to always keep trying until you get something right, be honest and have integrity. We were very much encouraged to stand up for ourselves and what we believe in and are all very resilient as a result.

He also instilled the importance of knowing when to ‘whist up’ and to know your place/audience.  A skill that needs to be bred into you, but a highly valuable skill in our job.

He thought us to respect other people and to have your friends’ and family’s back. I think that translates into work, backing your boss, your team and respecting your colleagues, clients and candidates.

Thank you to all who shared their stories. Do you have a piece of advice from your father you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments and if you’d like to read more career stories visit the Career Stories section of our Career Insights Centre.