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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

5 Classic Career Rules You'll Be Forced to Break

We’ve all heard those tried-and-true cliches meant to guide your career decisions. They come from people whose experience and advice you respect.

They’re supposed to make your life easier, functioning as givens you can fall back on. But that’s not always the case and you might actually be an exception.

Case in point, here are five rules you may be better off ignoring:

1. “Do What You Love”

You’ve been looking for a while, but you still haven’t found a job that suits both your passion and your budget. People keep telling you to hold out for your dream, but money’s getting tight. What do you do?

Why It’s a Rule

Let’s back up and think about why people say this: It stems from the idea that you’ll be more fulfilled if you enjoy what you do for a living.

Break the Rule

However, nowadays we know that fulfillment comes from many places—and it may be that your 9-to-5 is just a means to support your life outside of work. So if you have a family to support, or other ways to live your passion, it’s OK for your job to be just a job.

Read More: You Can Love What You Do for a Living, But Still Think it Feels Like Work

2. “Don’t Ever Leave One Job Before You Have Another in Hand”

When your alarm goes off, you groan. You hate your job, and every day there seems like an eternity. You want to leave, but you don’t have another job lined up yet. Should you wait?

Why It’s a Rule

Traditional advice would say not to leave just yet. Not only is it easier to job search with a continuous employment history, but avoiding a gap in pay means you won’t feel pressure to take any position, even if it’s not a good fit.

Break the Rule

If staying’s become toxic emotionally, psychologically, or physically; it’s time to leave. It’s true that this can put a (big) strain on your finances, so institute a strict budget now to help you prepare. Just because you’re leaving before you get an offer doesn’t mean you should do it on a whim.

Read More: 4 Lessons I Learned From Quitting My Job With No Back-up Plan

3. “You Must Stay With an Organization for at Least One Year”

You took a new job, and everything was going great—until it wasn’t. Now, you’d like to leave, but you’re worried that you’ll hurt your employability if you do. Isn’t there that rule about having to stay in a new place for a minimum of one year?

Why It’s a Rule

It’s true: You don’t want a reputation as a serial job-hopper. Employers like to work with people who stick around since it’s so expensive to recruit and train them.

Break the Rule

While you want to avoid having lots of short stays in your job history, most people will understand if there was a particular situation that wasn’t great. If it’s your boss or the day-to-day nature of your work that’s not what you expected, keep in mind that there are sometimes options to change positions without leaving the organization.

Start by looking for new responsibilities and discussing a transfer to another team. If, after that, you’re still itching to get out, update your resume and re-start your job hunt.

Read More: 4 Ways to Become Known as a Career Builder—and Not a Job Hopper

4. “You Have to Start at the Bottom if You Want to Change Fields”

You want to try something new, but there’s one problem. You’ve already poured so much into your current career path and you’re not interested in starting over from zero.

Why It’s a Rule

The idea behind this is that you need to pay your dues and demonstrate your interest and commitment—and the way to do this in any industry is to begin at the bottom (even if that means returning to school).

Break the Rule

However, if you’ve already put time into your current career, you probably have more skills that transfer from field to field than you recognize. Not just that, but your years of work have also taught you how to network, which can play a role in getting off the ground floor.

If you get in front of enough people and show them how wonderful you are, you can often talk your way into a position that your resume alone wouldn’t get you. Go to events and make connections. It’ll give you a huge boost in your quest to avoid restarting at square one.

Read More: How to Get Experience in a New Field Without Starting at the Bottom

5. “Never Be the First One to Give a Salary Number”

You're in a first round screening with an HR person and they won't let you dodge the question, “What salary would you like?” You start to sweat. You know you're not supposed to give a number first. What should you do?

Why It’s a Rule

When you give a potential employer this information, you give yourself a salary cap since it’s unlikely that an employer will ever go higher than you.

Break the Rule

Sometimes breaking this one’s unavoidable. The company may require a salary number to submit your application, or a hiring manager might keep rephrasing the question. In this case, go ahead and give an estimate, but make sure to aim higher than you’re really looking for to leave room for negotiation.

When asked for a number, first try to send the question back with an answer like: “Could you share with me what range you had in mind for the position?” But if this doesn’t work, you’ll want to provide a range that is on target with the going rates in the field. Conduct salary research in advance, so your initial number is informed and within industry standards.

Read More: 4 Secrets to Negotiating a Salary That Will Make Your Bank Account Smile

These five unwritten rules work generally, but they may not be applicable for every situation. It really comes down to personal choice, paying attention to the factors that are present in your situation, and doing what you need to do to get what you want most from your career.

Photo of person thinking courtesy of Images.