Ready to earn your seat at the table?

By Maggie Seaver
Updated February 28, 2020
serious-at-work: woman presenting to a group
Credit: Getty Images

We all want to be taken seriously at work, but respect is rarely given freely—it has to be earned. Many professionals—and particularly junior-level professionals who are eager to prove themselves, but have yet to earn their stripes—have a hard time feeling like they’re being heard, trusted, and taken seriously.

And this could be somewhat true: Maybe they’re too new and green to have won over their superiors yet; or they may simply not behave or perform in a way that merits respect. Or it could be a construct of their own making: an innate lack of confidence in their worth—a telltale symptom of workplace impostor syndrome. (How can you expect to be taken seriously by others if you don’t take yourself seriously?)

If these feelings sound familiar, know that they’re quite common—and also possible to quell. To prove it, Rosanna Durruthy, the vice president of global diversity, inclusion, and belonging at LinkedIn, names some of the most important traits and skills needed to be taken seriously, both in your current role and throughout your career.

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1 Be Hungry to Learn

Genuine curiosity, Durruthy says, is foundational. It’s the best way to develop new skills, meet new people, and gain new experiences.

“It’s important to show an eagerness to soak up knowledge at work, especially as a young professional,” she explains. “Ask questions, join brainstorms, and offer to help on projects to show your interest and desire to learn. This hunger can feed your talent and fuel the potential in others.”

2 Get Involved and Branch Out

An employee who means business will get involved in their organization and become a valued member of not only their team, but of other teams and intra-organizational support systems, too. Your involvement solidifies your interest in ensuring an inclusive environment for everyone.

“Employee resource groups and professional associations—inside and outside of your organization—provide career support, networks to build connections and social capital, and offer great opportunities to grow and develop in your career,” Durruthy says.

These affinity groups and personal-professional connections can help boost your confidence and sense of community, which organically imbues you with the capacity to be taken more seriously.

3 Be an Exceptional Listener

“As much as you want to be an active participant in discussions, it’s crucial to listen well to others,” Durruthy says. This includes being able to receive feedback well—a soft skill that’s crucial for everyone, but especially so for young professionals who have a lot to learn from those who’ve been there far longer.

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4 Take Feedback Well

Accepting feedback (both good and bad) is another key communication skill to master. Being unreceptive to feedback is a major sign of immaturity, self-centeredness, and lack of respect. It also makes your boss’s life extremely difficult—they can’t take you seriously if you don’t take their feedback seriously. “It can be tough to receive feedback, but it’s crucial to growth and success in your professional life,” Durruthy says.

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5 Cultivate “Cultural Humility”

Cultural Humility, a term coined by [physician and activist Melanie Tervalon, MD], is based most broadly on the idea of lifelong self-reflection, empathy, and openness to learn about those who are different from us. It deals with the individual’s responsibility both to recognize their own unique privileges and their inevitable insufficiencies.

Durruthy says Cultural Humility “is necessary for today’s environment, whether your ambition is to be a leader, an individual contributor, or an entrepreneur.”

6 Advocate for Yourself

There may come a time when you feel discouraged and frustrated, because you do listen, you are respectful, and you’re as curious and eager as possible—and still aren’t being treated as a serious member of your team. (This is different from believing you deserve praise, a promotion, or acknowledgement of victimhood, when you do not.)

“Try talking to others about what you’re experiencing—seek perspectives from mentors and individuals who demonstrate a good understanding of the environment you’re in,” Durruthy says. “Predecessors, colleagues, and connections in your professional network including can offer helpful advice and allyship to support your aspirations and potential.”

It may also reach a point where you have to speak up, in which case, here’s how to go about giving negative feedback to a boss or manager.

7 Always Treat Others With Respect

Here, of course, is the foundation of all social and professional dynamics: “The Platinum Rule encourages us to treat others as they’d like to be treated,” Durruthy says. “Personally, my rule is to treat people beautifully. Treat others with respect and provide a supportive environment for your peers.” In short, there is no easier and more genuine way to gain respect than to show respect for others.

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