Former White House press secretary reveals 3 things 20-somethings need to know to plan an awesome career

Dana perino fox
Your efforts will pay off, says Dana Perino, pictured. Photo by Chris McKay/Getty Images
  • Dana Perino is a Fox news host and the first Republican woman to serve as White House press secretary.
  • When people ask her how they can become the White House press secretary, she tells them it’s hard to plan your entire career in advance, so you shouldn’t worry too much.
  • She also said it can be hard to pay equal attention to your personal and professional lives at the same time.

“Take it easy” is not something today’s young professionals want to hear when they ask a powerful person for career advice.

And yet that’s what Dana Perino — a Fox news host and the first Republican woman to serve as White House press secretary — has to tell them.

On an episode of Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” Perino shared her top three tips for 20-somethings planning their careers with US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell.

1. Stop worrying about the future

Perino said she’s constantly being asked, “What should I do in order to become White House press secretary?”

Her response: Stop worrying about it. These things have a way of working themselves out.

Here’s Perino:

“First you become a country-music deejay [a job Perino held in college], because it’s so absurd, because you don’t know what you’re going to end up being. What I ask all young people in particular is please do not worry your young life away. Worrying got me nowhere.

“The point of my book, ‘And the good news is,’ has double meaning. But one of the meanings is that for all of the worrying that I did, at no point did my worry lead to my next career step. I know that’s easy to say, but the hard work that people put in now, it will pay off for them and they see it later. I see them in their 30s and they look back and go, ‘Oh, you were right about that,’ because things ultimately happen for them.”

2. A partner’s support can make or break your career

Perino also told Shontell not to let your personal life fall by the wayside.

“One of my favourite pieces of advice in the book is that choosing to be loved is not a career-limiting decision,” she said. “Having a committed relationship, to me, has made a big difference in being able to actually accomplish big things. If I hadn’t had Peter’s [my husband’s] support, I don’t think I could have done all of this. Now maybe I would have, I don’t know, but certainly my life is a lot more joyous. Work is important, but it’s not everything.”

3. Think about work-life balance over the course of your entire career

When it comes to juggling your personal and professional demands simultaneously? Perino said, “I don’t have an answer for that.”

Fortunately, she’s able to borrow some wisdom from a former unnamed White House colleague, who told Perino that during her years at the White House, “I don’t think I returned a personal phone call in five years. I just worked. I didn’t think about a work-life balance in my day-to-day life. I think about work-life balance over the course of my career.”

Now, Perino said, that former colleague is a professor at Harvard. “She’s got a little bit more time, she just had a baby. That was, for me, an interesting way to look at it.”

Perino shared some additional insight about thinking that one day, you’ll have and know it all:

“I just learned that [about work-life balance] two months ago, so I still have a lot to learn as well, and mentoring goes both ways.”