At the time, I didn't particularly love the idea of working in fashion, but I was determined to make my way on my own terms, on my own strengths. I went from being completely confident and pumped about my upcoming job to being completely unsure of myself—all on the back of this otherwise positive, affirming phone call from Anna Wintour. To be sure, it wasn't the call itself that left me reeling, it was my father's reaction to it. It was the thought that my ultimate mentor might be trying (not all that subtly!) to tell me to do something else for a living.
One day, just before graduation, I finally brought it up with him again. I wanted to know what the hell he'd been thinking when he said I should consider Anna's offer.
"Please don't doubt my confidence in you, Ivanka," he explained. "I only suggested you think about that job at Vogue because I wanted to see how serious you were about going into real estate. I wanted you to see for yourself how serious you were about it."
"Of course I'm serious about real estate," I said. "I've been fascinated by it since I was a child. You know that as well as anyone. I've taken every chance you've given me to work at the company. Summer jobs, whatever. I've learned everything I can learn without actually being there and living it firsthand. I've been studying it at school . . ." I would have gone on and on, but my father cut me off.
"I'm aware of everything you've done," he said, "and I'm enormously proud of your accomplishments. I just thought we should both be sure that you weren't doing all these things because you felt that was what was expected of you. If real estate isn't the right fit for you, I wanted you to know it was okay with me."
I thought, well, that's a relief. And it was. Here I'd been thinking my father didn't really believe I had what it took to make it in real estate, and all along he'd just been testing my resolve. Beneath that feeling, though, I realized I was also a little pissed that he'd put me through those doubts and worries, but the feeling of relief won out. And it was a relief for him, too, to hear how passionate I was about wanting to work as a developer. As a boss, he wouldn't want me around if I wasn't dead certain about my path. As a father, he wouldn't want me to move forward on that road for the wrong reasons. He wanted his children to have passion for whatever we chose to do. Real estate was his passion, but it didn't have to be ours. As long as we cared about what we were doing, we'd have the focus and determination to get our bearings and then thrive—in any career.
I'd heard my father speak many times about the importance of loving what you do. It was one of the great themes in our house as I was growing up. But now that I was about to graduate from college and take my first real job, his message really hit home. He didn't want to see me spin my wheels in a profession I wasn't passionate about. He believes that when you bring your heart and soul to a job, you can't lose— but when you don't, you'll always lose to someone who does. Bottom line: he believed that if I wasn't prepared to eat, drink, and sleep real estate, I shouldn't enter the field. And it took hearing it from him that one final time, in the context of the unexpected phone call from Anna Wintour, to get me to realize that I believed the very same thing.