No siting on fence signFrom the convoluted hiring process to the increasingly complex policies of the average company, there is seemingly no end to the number of rules and regulation we necessarily live by in order to conform to the rules of career building. There are rules for resumes, rules for interviewing, rules for the workplace once you land a job…so much time is invested to learn the rules that it isn’t surprising that we become so risk averse as our job experience and careers mature. But one of the most overlooked rules of all is that sometimes, some rules should be broken. This rule is especially relevant to the following list of conventions so many professionals accept as corporate gospel.

1. If you look for career advice most anywhere (blogs, public forums, professional advisors), you’ll probably be told that “salary” is a four-letter word; especially during a job interview. But is simply inquiring about an intended salary really so presumptuous? Not in the least. In fact, ignoring the issue of salary until the last possible moment can potentially be a huge waste of time for both employer and candidate. Salary is a major consideration when accepting any job and going through the slog of the hiring process only to have to turn down a job offer due to an insufficient compensation package can be both demotivating and emotionally exhausting.

Nobody wins in this situation: you end up back in the job pool all the worse for wear and your potential employer ends up back at square one. So, how does one politely go about approaching the topic with minimal fuss? You can initially defuse the awkwardness of the situation by first acknowledging that the topic is, indeed, awkward but making the point that your financial situation requires you obtain at least some information about a projected salary range. Also, try framing the question as a way to avoid wasted time on the employer’s part.

2. After you have broached the subject of your salary, now it’s time to break a second rule: avoid awkward salary negotiations. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes salary negotiations are a reasonable tactic to undertake as part of the hiring process, but sometimes this behavior may backfire or be completely inappropriate for your situation. The primary takeaway here is that many employers don’t follow the same rules as those offering hardcore corporate jobs. Sometimes part of your compensation package is the perks and other benefits you gain through employment in addition to your base salary. If you know your field and have done some research on both the company and average salaries, you may at least avoid some embarrassment and possibly even being overlooked.

3. Instead of sitting on the sidelines while you wait for others to figure out your values, toss this final rule out the window and embrace your impulse to brag about yourself and push for promotions. In the real world, it is not a simple matter of serving your time while you patiently await your reward. Climbing the food chain requires asking for feedback, sharing your questions and plans for your careers, and generally making sure that everyone around you knows just how hard you work. Though the philosophy of not rocking the boat is largely ingrained in us from birth, when it comes to matters of progression in your career, you need to be assertive. Downplaying your contributions and value will never lead to a swanky promotion or top-flight projects. Be recognized by not selling yourself short due to fear of being the center of attention.

It will always be necessary to know the rules of your field and employer. But by fundamentally understanding these rules, you can more easily identify those that can and should be broken at opportune moments and help push your career to new (and possibly unexpected) heights.

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