Colleagues talking

During a tough job search a couple years ago, my dad called me out of the blue and said his company had an opening that he thought would interest me. Although I was totally against the idea of working with my father at the time, I needed to pay the bills, so I asked him to send me the listing. And once I saw it, I realized it wasn’t completely off-base, but also that it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for at the time.

But again, I needed to pay the rent, so I sent him my resume and cover letter for consideration. Ultimately, it didn’t end up working out in my favor, and was probably the best outcome for me and my dad (not to mention the company). However, I learned a few surprising lessons about accepting career leads from people you love.

1. Don’t Rule Out Working With Family if the Job Is Right for You

OK, truth time: The job itself would not have been that bad. It was a full-time position as a writer, and admittedly, I was being a little picky about the type of writing I wanted to be doing. My first reaction was to do a little bellyaching about how I couldn’t believe my dad didn’t understand my dreams, but something quickly dawned on me—what if my dad had sent me the job I had been searching for my entire life?

While working with family—be it a parent, a sibling, or a significant other—on a regular basis might be uniquely challenging, I realized that if my dream job happened to be at my father’s company, I’d be incredibly dumb to pass on it just because regular lunches with him would be a real possibility (which, of course, would also be a much nicer reality than I wanted to admit at the time).

2. Be Just as Gracious to for the Referral as You Would Be to Anyone Else

Here’s the thing: If you’re fortunate enough to have one of your loved ones refer you for a job, that means they’re looking out for your best interests. Which is a really, really amazing gift. And honestly, it’s not their fault if they don’t understand exactly what you’re hoping to do (in my case, I never did a great job of articulating that to my dad). Ask yourself right now, do you understand what all your friends do? Probably not—and keep in mind, they’re your age.

So in addition to actually allowing yourself to consider every position well-meaning relatives happen to send your way, do everything you can not to default to, “Ugh, why would you send this to me, Dad? Don’t you know anything?” Instead, tell these people you appreciate the thought, that you’ll seriously consider applying, and that you promise to call them more regularly because you know they’re worried sick.

Never forget that you’re lucky to have people looking out for you—there are lots of other professionals out there who would kill to be this position of being too loved.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up if a Role Isn’t Right for You

This one’s tough, and I know from experience that it’s not easy to tell people that you’re passing on the opening they’ve just sent you. “But it’s a good job,” they’ll say, “And I know the benefits are good, so what’s your problem?” However, if you’ve actually taken some time to consider the role and how it fits into your career plan, be brave and let them know that you’ve thought about it and that it’s not right for you for [the following reasons]. And yes, you’ll have to insert your own reasons there.

I can’t promise they’ll be completely supportive of this decision, but after I was turned down for the position at my dad’s company, I got a really pleasant surprise. He said he understood it might not have been right for me after all, and that he would be happy to send along other roles if he noticed anything that might be a fit. Your family members aren’t out to get you, even if you turn down an opportunity they’ve put in front of you. So if something isn’t a good fit, just speak up. Odds are, they’ll be more offended if you take it and don’t do it well. Because who wants their bratty relative to screw up in front of the colleagues they respect?

I have a feeling that as soon as my dad sees this, he’s going to say, “You misquoted me, but I’m glad you’re finally back to work.” And that’s OK. Because even though the role he referred me for didn’t ultimately work out, I know he was just looking out for me because I’m his kid (even though I can be pretty annoying sometimes). And as inaccurate as he might say this retelling is, I hope he knows how much I appreciate him for how I remember all of this.