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6 NEW Rules For Getting Ahead In Your Career: Just Wing It, Have A Huge Ego, And More!

Want to get on the fast track to a prime position in your dream job? Follow the NEW rules for succeeding professionally--some of them may surprise you!

Sure, you're young and maybe a bit inexperienced, but you're also smart, talented, and determined to be a success. Thing is, you may feel that climbing from entry-level newbie to big boss could take, well, years! Which, hello, is just not on the agenda! To feed your hunger to get ahead, Cosmo consulted pros and came up with six strategies to fast-track you to your ultimate goal. This means scrapping some of the old standard rules you've heard before and adopting new, renegade stuff.

"The trick is to find the shortcuts and make them work for you so you can leapfrog and achieve success in less time," says career coach Randall Hansen, PhD, founder of Quintessential Careers. While your peers are putting in grueling hours and waiting for the boss to notice them, your career will be cruising at a higher altitude.

Outdated Rule #1: Have a five-year plan.
New Rule #1: Just wing it!

If you're entering the fast lane, being bound by a strict timeline is just going to slow you down. "When you get caught up in the details and restrictions of having a plan, you get stuck thinking it can be done only one way," says Victoria Colligan, cofounder of Ladies Who Launch, a networking organization for female entrepreneurs. "As a result, you may miss an opportunity to take an atypical, yet speedier, course or lose drive when things don't go according to your schedule." In other words, if your point-by-point plot says you need step B to get to C, you probably aren't looking when a not-so-obvious opportunity pops up to skip right to D.

Example: You want to own a restaurant. You could start out as a sideline caterer (step B) and work your way up to a franchise owner (C), learning the food biz as you go. It's a solid way to gain valuable experience, but if you want to be a restaurateur, like, right now, it's smart to keep an eye open for an alternate path. Maybe you grab the chance to work as a food or equipment supplier, connecting with other vendors who have insider tips, and forging a unique, more lateral relationship with seasoned owners. The point is, the clear route is not always the most productive one. You need to be flexible and open to pioneering your own custom-made course.

Outdated Rule #2: Be tastefully modest.
New Rule #2: Have a huge ego.

Obviously you're not sitting around, meekly saying "Who, me?" every time you're given kudos, but in this current climate, you have to PR yourself hard-core. However, you need to do it in a savvy way—plugging your abilities without turning your boss or clients off with your bragging. "To accelerate your career, you want to get attention from the higher-ups, so you must be strategically pushy," confirms Barbara Stanny, author of Overcoming Underearning.

To do this, recognize key opportunities to sell yourself. The big moments are obvious—during your review or a meeting with the boss—but there are little openings throughout the day that, if seized upon, can be a conduit to your rise, says Kate Wendleton, president of the national career coaching organization The Five O'Clock Club and author of Navigating Your Career.

A model case: You're riding the elevator with the boss. Don't screw your moment by gushing over her shoes as other employees may do. Instead, self-compliment. When she asks how you are, say "Great, I redid the window display last week and it has brought in a ton of new business." Is it aggressive? Abso-freakin'-lutely, but it works.

Outdated Rule #3: Get lots of experience.
New Rule #3: Take the plunge. Right. Now.

Know-how is important to a solid career, yes. But in this young market, vision and innovation are often more useful in getting a leg up. To skip steps, you must learn as you go, according to Hansen. "Waiting until you have years of practice before going for your goal may feel comfortable, but it'll delay your venture." Your best bet is to pull double duty: Start your dream job now, while you're still in your current one.

Let's say you're a receptionist at an interior-design firm with the hope of one day becoming a designer yourself. Forget "one day" and start now. Find clients, like your pals and friends of friends, and redo their pads after hours for cheap or even free. If they like your style, they'll spread the word, building your rep. You'll hone your skills, work toward getting your license, and soon charge larger fees—all the while retaining your nine-to-five job, where you continue to learn and make a steady income.

Click on the next page to read more revealing tips for advancing in the workplace!
Outdated Rule #4: Rely on the internet or HR.
New Rule #4: Interview before the position even opens.

A few years ago, it seemed like the internet was a veritable vault of job opportunities. But these days, the primo positions aren't posted online, and you won't get a call from human resources about them. "When a position is that good, the company doesn't have to seek out employees to fill it—people are already clamoring," says Hansen. "In order to land the job you want sooner rather than later, you have to get in the game before the competition does." Which means interviewing before the position is even open. Relax, no psychic powers are needed to predict when an opportunity is coming. Just launch a preemptive strike and get your resume to the dude two levels above you, at the company where you'd like to be.

Email the big gun and tell him or her that you really respect the direction his or her company's going in. Explain that you'd love to be considered should an opportunity arise in the future, and ask if you can come in for an informational interview. Although you're technically going in to hear more about the company, it winds up being a mini-interview where you can cleverly sneak in your qualifications. Follow up with an email that day, then again a month later. If all goes well, he'll refer you to others or remember your face-to-face meeting when a job opens. "You want to talk to the person who's actually doing the hiring, because HR may screen your resume out on a technicality," Hansen says.

Outdated Rule #5: Be a whiz at doing everything.
New Rule #5: Cherry-pick your assignments.

Obviously, the higher-ups appreciate a team player—that never goes out of style. But rather than offering to lend a hand with any undertaking (like a huge photocopying endeavor), only throw your hat in the ring for the plum projects. "That way, you are using your time to show off your skills and do something important for the company," says Wendleton. Plus, if you're constantly doing menial tasks, they'll pigeonhole you as the assistant type, and you may get stalled on your career path.

So ask a superior if they need help with their workload on an important assignment—a busy colleague will appreciate the break. Then, make your boss aware of your initiative by saying something like "I've been working on a few inventory reports for Ton and I'm really learning a lot. I'd be happy to take on more." Bingo. "By shouldering some of the responsibilities of a higher position, you're showing the boss that you're up to the task," says NYC career counselor Lynn Berger. "When it comes time to promote someone, they"ll look to the person who they already know has the skills: you."

Outdated Rule #6: Suck up to the boss.
New Rule #6: Kiss your coworkers' butts.

To make it big, it's not enough to win over your boss—you have to win over your equals, too. "These are the people you'll rely on most when flying up the ladder because you'll be either partnering with them or using their connections one day," says Wendleton. "Plus, when employers are looking to fill managerial positions, they want someone who has the support of their peers."

One sneaky way to send your higher-ups the "me for manager" message: talking up your coworkers. Wendleton suggests saying something like "Dino did such a great job on that" after receiving praise on a group project. This strategy works on three levels. First off, you've earned the respect of Dino. Also, your boss subconsciously perceives you as being senior to Dino and sees that you really know how to deal with people. All of which puts you on the fast-track to a promotion.

To be a superstar, you also should build up your rep throughout the entire industry by joining related organizations and hitting networking events. "You want to be seen as a real player within your market," says Berger. "Knowing what's going on in your business keeps you ahead of the curve and abreast of opportunities."

The more connected you are, the more valuable you are to your current company and the more desirable you are to other potential employers. So rather than having to crawl your way from entry-level to the upper echelons, keep these tips in mind to ensure that the key players will be knocking down your cubicle, er, door.

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