- Dana Perino is a FOX News host and the first Republican woman to serve as White House press secretary. She got ahead in government partly because she was interested in and willing to tackle the issues no one else was. Her career advice is to take the least desirable jobs, at least when you’re just starting out.
If tax policy or antitrust law don’t sound like your cup of tea, well, you’re not alone.
Dana Perino knew these areas wouldn’t interest everyone – but they interested her. And that gave her an advantage.
Perino is a FOX News star and the first Republican woman to serve as White House press secretary, from September 2007 until the end of President George W. Bush’s term in 2009.
On an episode of Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” Perino shared some career advice with US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell: “Take the jobs nobody else wants to do.”
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Perino joined the Justice Department as a spokesperson in 2001. She told Shontell, “I dealt with all the issues that were not terrorism-related” – including tax policy, the Antitrust Division, and the Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Perino said, “I like all those issues. So I had those issues on my plate, and I got pulled over to the White House Council on Environmental Quality just a year later. And then, anyway, then I’m going to be the deputy, then I stayed and I became the press secretary.”
Beyond taking unpopular jobs, Perino tried to outwork all her colleagues. She said, “For, I don’t know, six years I got up at four o’clock in the morning, I worked all day, every day, and even on Saturdays and Sundays. … I always wanted to be the most well-read person in the briefing room and so that means you have to put in the work.”
Perino isn’t the only person to recommend raising your hand for relatively undesirable tasks.
Mark Fitzloff, former executive creative director at advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy, told Fast Company that when he started out at Wieden + Kennedy, everyone wanted to work for Nike – except for him.
“For me, it’s about doing the thing no one else wants to do and proving yourself through that,” Fitzloff told Fast Company. “I took a sort of pride in being one of the ‘everything else’ creatives. That led to my first creative director assignment on Coca-Cola, which was perceived at the time in the agency as a bit of a hopeless case because they thought it would be a drag and not lead to great work. And it ended up being awesome.”
Meanwhile, Mike Rowe, former host of the Discovery Channel series “Dirty Jobs,” told The Muse, “Spend the first year of your job making your boss look smart. Volunteer for the work that no one else wants to do.”
Sometimes it comes down to practicality. Rowe told The Muse: “Look around. See where everyone is going. If you go the opposite direction, you increase your odds of finding an opportunity.”