How to Get Taken Seriously - 7 Ways to Upgrade Your Reputation at Work

Looking to Upgrade Your Reputation at Work?

Posten on, April 2015

Quick, practical, see-me-as-a-pro career strategies from Dana Perino, cohost of Fox News' The Five and a former White House press secretary.

I was the first (and so far the only) Republican woman to be the White House press secretary, a distinction that has made me proud. But before my first press briefing, on September 17, 2007, I was a bundle of nerves. I got a call from Margaret Spellings, then U.S. secretary of education, who had been a mentor and friend; she wanted to know how I was doing. "Actually, I'm pretty nervous," I said.

Her response: "Put your big-girl panties on and deal with it!"

She was right. And so I did just that, again and again for over a year, against a backdrop of war, mass shootings, terror threats, natural disasters, and other crises. I loved it and knew I'd worked hard to earn my place at the front of the room.

How can you lay the groundwork for the job of your dreams—and keep everyone's respect once you get it? Here are a few basics, shared in the spirit of solidarity!

Don't Wear Ugg Boots to the Office

You have to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Now, I love my Uggs when I'm out for a stroll with my dog. But they make you look like you're shuffling, which says, "I can't be bothered." Not the right message at work. Consider: A lawyer friend got picked to argue her first case because she was the only one wearing a suit when there was an emergency at the courthouse. When it's your turn to shine, do you really want to be wearing slippers?

Write Better Emails

Go easy on the exclamation points and emoji—your boss doesn't need to be prompted to smile. And remember: New topic equals new email chain and new subject line. This can help people easily find previous messages when they're needed. Also, keep emails spare and specific by using bullet points and intuitive titles such as "Friday's Delivery Issue: Solved."

Find Your Strong Voice

Behind your chest bone at the top of your diaphragm is a little power center. You turn on the power center by taking a breath and tightening your core as if someone were about to punch you. Speak from there. This exercise helps me make whatever I say more convincing.

Know When to Zip It

Former Vice President Dick Cheney liked to say, "You never get in trouble for something you didn't say." Exactly! Sometimes listening can be even more valuable than talking.

Make Time for the Important People

The then White House communications director Nicolle Wallace and I were once in a meeting when she saw me ignore a call from my husband. She said, "Do you want to take it?" I said, "No, it's just Peter. I'll call him back." I've never forgotten her advice: "Always take your spouse's calls." Sometimes your loved ones may take a backseat, but they can't stay there for long.

Don't Dwell

When I was a deputy press secretary, I got caught in the cross fire of a miscommunication about an interview between President Bush and communications director Dan Bartlett. During a tense moment the President pointed at me and said, "She doesn't need to be here." I slunk out of the Oval Office mortified, and I had a hard time shaking the feeling. But when I later asked the President if he remembered how mad he'd been, he had no idea. He said, "Dana, you have to let that one go." I did, which made space in my head for more productive thinking.

Be a Schedule Warrior

One of my pet peeves is hearing people brag about how busy they are. I finally realized there's only one person who can help me keep a decent schedule, and that's me. I've learned to say no to requests and not feel bad about it, and every day I make time for an exercise class where no cell phones are allowed. That's when I recharge. Instead of complaining about how busy I am, I now say, "I've found really good balance." That shocks people! I say it even if I don't feel that way, but it's becoming more believable—even to me.

*Adapted from the book And the Good News Is... by Dana Perino. *

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