In honor of Father's Day, this is the column I wrote for the Tri-Valley Herald in June 2006.
In a favorite black-and-white photograph, my father stands behind me, giving me a haircut when I was six years old.
In the photo, I sit on the tray of my sister’s wooden highchair, looking into the lens.
As my dad cuts my hair, his left hand holds my head steady as his right hand guides electric clippers above my right ear.
My jeans are patched, hand-me-downs from my brother. They’re rolled up to fit, and my feet are bare.
A white towel is pulled around my neck, and this all happens in a plain kitchen in Hanford, California.
Snapping the picture is my mother, Janet. You can’t see her, but she is as pretty as my father is handsome.
Back then, my parents were in their twenties, and my dad, whose name is Bill, was a high school English teacher.
With Father’s Day just around the corner, I pulled out this photo and called my dad.
“I remember that picture,” he said. “Those were great days, and we all had our lives ahead of us.”
Born in 1930, my dad spent his early years in Buffalo, New York. His mother died when he was three, and his father worked in a steel mill.
As I grew up, I didn’t think much about my dad’s life. It wasn’t until I got into college that I came to appreciate his decision to serve in the Air Force and then become the first in our family’s history to go to college where he earned a master’s degree.
With that education he became a teacher and later a guidance counselor at a community college.
Similarly, I never thought much about the quiet advice he gave us kids.
Today, of course, I know that my dad’s choices taught me about life, and I find myself sharing his wisdom not only with my children, but with employees and my students.
Here in the midst of the graduation season, let me share one of my dad’s observations appropriate for graduating students: “You’re always being interviewed.”
To illuminate this phrase, I contacted Pat Mayfield, a national business consultant and author based in Pleasanton.
“This is true in both professional and personal situations,” Mayfield said. “The continuous life interview is a natural process. Not only are we always being interviewed, we’re also always interviewing.”
Mayfield noted that at any given time, we never know who might be looking for a new employee: “It’s not unusual for opportunities to appear because of a chance meeting or observation. A random meeting on an airplane or a casual encounter at a networking or social event may lead to life altering changes.”
The idea that you’re always being interviewed also suggests that employees shouldn’t wait to interview for the next position in their company. Whether we realize it or not, we’re already being interviewed by the way we perform our current assignment.
This advice has served me well throughout my career. Yet my dad’s advice is also a reminder to me to live each moment in a way that will make my children proud.
This is the interview that matters most to me, the one where I’m assessed each day on what I do with my time, whether I make a difference in people’s lives, whether I share my love and create happy memories.
Like that photograph of my dad cutting my hair, I want to leave a portrait for my daughters to look back on, a memory of me standing behind them, a reason for them to say about me what today I say about my own father, that he taught me lifelong lessons.
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