The No. 1 Rule for Getting Ahead in Today’s Workplace

May 23, 2012 · 7 comments

The Wall Street Journal‘s blog about balancing work and family, The Juggle, ran a post recently about rules for getting ahead in the workplace. It was a response to another piece called Nine Rules Women Must Follow to Get Ahead.

How ironic, I thought as I read them, that the ONE big piece of advice I’d give anyone who’s looking to get ahead in today’s new, ever-changing workplace is this:

DON’T follow any of the rules.

Don't follow the rules

Did Mark Zuckerberg follow the rules? (Not even when it came to his wedding.) Or Steve Jobs? Or [insert the name of your idol here]?

Am I following the rules?

Most everyone who’s successful has bucked the norm in some way, colored outside the lines. They didn’t follow the rules because when you follow the rules, you become like everyone else. And the only way to become something great, to rise above the status quo, is by NOT being like everyone else. (Like this idea? Click here to tweet it.)

This makes sense on a meta-level, and it’s an easy concept to support in theory. But what’s far more difficult — and what will actually affect your life – is whether you put it into practice way down at the nitty-gritty, oh-so-practical level.

That means putting in extra effort to write a cover letter that’s not your resume regurgitated. It means suggesting and following through on ideas that no one else in the office has thought of. It means leaving your 9-to-5 to work for yourself even if you have a “good job.”

It also means being able to tell good fear from bad fear, and knowing when it’s time to take your leap.

Because you’ll never get anywhere by following the rules. You’ll spin your wheels, frustrated that you can’t find a job (when you could create your own) or get the attention of the person who matters (when you could make your own luck) or [insert your dream here] (when you could go about it in a completely non-traditional way). If you follow the rules, you’ll find yourself stuck at the status quo when you have so much more potential than that.

So break the rules. Take a risk. Put yourself out there. That’s the ONLY way you’ll ever truly get ahead.


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