After I hung up, I thought, I didn't see that one coming. Not by a long shot. It was exciting to have someone like Anna Wintour reach out to me about a job. It went straight to my sleepy little head, and I was bursting to tell someone about it. All my friends were asleep, so I called my dad. It was early for me, but it wasn't early for him. He dropped whatever he was doing to take my call.
"You'll never guess who I just got off the phone with," I said, but then I told him before he had a chance to even guess.
When I was finished with my story, he said, "I think you should consider it, Ivanka. Working at Vogue sounds very exciting. Anna's the best in the business. You could learn a lot from her."
For a beat or two, I thought maybe I'd dialed the wrong number. I don't know what I'd been expecting, but I certainly wasn't expecting that. Frankly, I was shocked that my father would encourage me to pursue a career other than real estate. For years, it was all we'd talked about. For years, I'd done everything I could to make sure I was ready to make a real contribution to the family business when I finally graduated and got the opportunity. For years, it had been a kind of given. His take on this out-of-nowhere, entry-level Vogue position took me thoroughly by surprise, and it certainly wasn't a surprise of the good or happy variety. I'd just spent the last two years at Wharton studying finance and real estate. What did my father think I'd been doing all that time? Wasn't he excited at the prospect of me joining his company, even if that prospect was still a few years away? Didn't he think I had what it took to make it as a developer?
I couldn't think how to respond, so I raced off the phone. I still had that final final exam coming up later that morning, and I didn't want to get too distracted by all these unanswered questions. There was enough going on in my head already, and I was determined to end my academic career on a strong note. I tried to go back to sleep, but of course I couldn't. I was too shaken by those two phone calls. Too emotional. Too confused. Too everything.
Over the next few weeks, as graduation loomed, my thoughts kept returning to my father's comment. Actually, they went all the way back to when I was at boarding school, making the argument for pursuing a modeling career. It was a way to make my mark outside my father's considerable sphere of influence, in an industry where his name wouldn't open any doors or lead directly to any opportunities. (In the ultimate irony, he ended up buying a modeling agency . . . but that prospect wasn't on the radar back then.) Any successes I managed to find would be totally on me. If I failed, it would be on me, too. That was appealing to me as a kid—and I realized it was still appealing to me as a young adult. Whatever I did next, after school, I wanted to own it. To earn it. I didn't want anything to be handed to me, and it took hearing what sounded like doubt from my father to get me to question my decision to follow in his footsteps.