Ask Amy: I’m not sure what my role is

Dear Amy,

I’m a marketing professional with about 3 years of experience working in a large organization. Last year my dad asked me if I had any interest in working in our family’s landscaping design firm. The firm had never had a marketing person before, and I thought it would be a great opportunity. So I joined the firm and spent the year planning for the firm’s 50-year celebration. I hit the ground running and had a lot of fun-and the celebration was a huge success.

But now, after all that high level of activity and planning, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. I’m like a bride after the wedding! The firm’s architects and engineers are the ones who really sell the business, which has a fine reputation, so my marketing skills are not needed the way they were in my other position. I’m bored a lot of the time…but worse, I’m concerned that our employees are wondering what value I’m adding, which of course is what I’m worried about, too.

I know I’m lucky-it’s a successful firm, I love my dad, and he’s trying his best to give me things to do. But sometimes he seems as unsure as I am about what my role is. Have I made the wrong decision???


Amy KatzDear Vicky,

Of course, I can’t answer that last question but I do have a few thoughts that may be helpful. Many daughters find it difficult to figure out their role in their family’s business. Some are comfortable being a “Jill of all trades”, but most feel just as you do-concerned about how people are perceiving them, whether they are seen as real contributors, etc. And for many, there is no clear career path to follow.

As an example, Wendy Yuengling-Baker, whose family owns Yuengling Beer, realized early on that she would have to create her own career path when she returned to the business. And after some hard thinking, she found her place in the administrative side of the business. Another daughter I know realized that she had excellent facilitation skills and now leads almost every meeting in her family’s business-and she is always the one people turn to for information and guidance.

Your challenge now is to develop a role that will work for you…just for this year. Perhaps it’s a good time to really “learn the business”, now that the celebration is over. You may find that you really enjoy the financial side, or business development, or even the design side of the projects your firm takes on. I’d suggest talking with your dad about a title that you can both use that fits the variety of tasks you may end up taking on. Maybe it’s “operations associate”, or “marketing and finance”…whatever works for the two of you. Decide on it, and get yourself a card with a title.

But then, once you have the title, tell your dad to delegate to you like crazy! Ask for projects that will give you a wide range of experiences in the business. Maybe you can also take a course at a local university that will enrich your understanding and perhaps allow you to take on a broader role at work. Who knows?

I’d suggest developing a career plan for 2015. Put down the skills you want to develop, the roles you’d like to play, and the milestones you’d like to reach. Share it with your dad and ask him to “fill in the blanks”. And be sure to ask him to give you feedback on a regular basis.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a year (or more) to figure out if there’s a position at the firm that will add value to the business and tap your interests and talents.

Just another thought-you may find that you’re a bit lonely, since no one else at the firm has your expertise and experience. It might be a good time to join a community board, where you can tap your skills and get to know people in your community.

Have a wonderful new year, filled with new experiences, learning, and time for thinking through what’s next. Then write to me again and let’s see where you’ve landed!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *