Learn the Rules of the Game


One of the earliest seminars I attended in my career was on the different ways men and women communicate at work. Being exposed to the nuances of office language was the first time that I realized there was a different set of rules I should be aware of. This revelation made me question what other unwritten practices I needed to know

Over the years, I’ve discovered more rules I wish I knew at a younger age, although it’s hard to have regrets since learning through experience is usually the best way to make them really stick. My hope is that sharing the lessons I learned will help you find your voice and agency early in your career.

Rule #1: Advocate for Yourself

Whether a pay raise, a promotion, a special project, or something else, you need to tell your manager exactly what you want and make your case for why you should have it. No one can read your mind, so you need to speak up.

Rule #2: Don’t Take Yourself out of the Running

When looking for a job, women are more likely than men to not apply for a position if they don’t meet each and every one of the requirements. If you see a job that interests you and you can build a compelling case for why you’re right for the job, even without every single requirement, then go for it.

Rule #3: Don’t be Afraid to Fail

Playing it safe is a sure way to not embarrass yourself. But, not taking risks also leads to stagnation and boredom. Learning from experience makes you a stronger contender.

Rule #4: Learn to Negotiate

The sooner you get comfortable with conversations around salary and responsibilities, the more this will pay off. It’s like compound interest since many jobs start their wage discussion based on your salary history.

Rule #5: Believe in Yourself

Don’t doubt yourself! You got the job, promotion, raise, or special assignment because you worked hard, delivered value, and deserve it. Be realistic about your contributions and celebrate your successes.