Back in college, Amy Klobuchar submitted an article to Cosmo—and oops, we rejected it. So she went to law school instead and then from Minnesota all the way to the U.S. Senate. She shares what she's learned along the way.
1. Leadership starts at the bottom.
As an intern for Vice President Walter Mondale, I arrived the first day ready to write policy memos and change the world...but my assignment was doing an inventory of the furniture. I spent three weeks crawling underneath sofas and tables. I learned two lessons. One, the Vice President was honest — nothing was missing. Two, you have to take your job seriously, even though it may not be the job that you dream of having. That was my first job in Washington, D.C.—senator was my second.
2. Get a little help from your friends.
I was one of the first women partners at my law firm, the first woman in my Minnesota prosecutor job, and the first woman elected from my state to the Senate. So advice from women who had done similar things was important for me. The women of the Senate—given that there are only 20 of us and 80 men—have worked hard to build friendships across party lines. We have potluck dinners and know one another's families. It's no surprise to me that all 20 women voted for the compromise to get out of the shutdown last year. We have built the trust you need for compromise to happen.
3. Always keep your sense of humor.
My first lunch in the Senate was in the LBJ dining room, which is very fancy. I grabbed some soup off the buffet and got ready to dive in, and all of a sudden, Patty Murray, the senator from Washington, ran around the table, grabbed my arm, and said, "Amy, you took the entire bowl of Thousand Island dressing, and you're about to eat it!" Of course, it was a woman who came to my rescue. I just laughed and said, "Well, that's the way we do it in Minnesota! We eat the Thousand Island dressing." While you have to take your work seriously, you don't always have to take yourself seriously. Admit that you have flaws, and don't try to be perfect all the time.
4. Get stuff done.
Someone once said that women politicians have to speak softly, which I don't agree with, and carry a big statistic—that, I agree with. Women politicians tend to lead by being accountable for results. We focus on goals and outcomes. You can't get by on just swagger.
5. Put it in perspective.
In any job, you can come under attack or have a door slammed in your face. You do want to listen to critics; you don't want to be in a cocoon and never change. Get a second opinion from coworkers and friends. Know that criticism can be valid, but don't take it personally.
6. Relish the best parts.
In my job, there are a lot of personal attacks. But then I'll do a neighborhood forum and be introduced as "the best thing since canned beer." Enjoy the great parts of your job, and let them balance out the negative.
Amy Takes Cosmo's Career Quiz!
What stands out in an interview?
Passion—I look for someone who seems excited about the potential for the work.
Do you have a secret to public speaking?
Projection and eye contact are key. My fourth-grade teacher, Miss Kalionen, would go to the back of class and yell, "You have to speak loud enough so that I can hear you...and look right at me!"
Any tips on dealing with the public?
Even when you are tired or rushed, always try to treat each person you meet with dignity and respect.
What should you wear to the office?
I work with people who wear some really nice clothes that I can't quite afford! Try not to dwell on that. Look professional, and remember that the quality of your work matters more than the quality of your clothes.
This article was originally published as "Your Career Get Ahead Guide: Work Hard and Love It" in the May 2014 issue of Cosmopolitan. Click here to get the issue in the iTunes store!
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor changes have been implemented by the Cosmo.ph editors.