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9 surprising career tips you need ASAP

April 28, 2015, 6:41 PM UTC
Photograph by David Woolfall—Getty Images

The following originally appeared in

When it comes to career advice, sometimes it seems like we’ve heard it all: Ask the right questions at the end of an interview, fine-tune your social media presence, and so on. But every now and then, we’re lucky enough to run into a piece of advice that’s totally fresh, and that has the potential to change the whole game.

Today, we’re talking about those kinds of tips—less talked-about wisdom nuggets that might at first seem unconventional, but which actually hold the potential to be more helpful than the hackneyed advice we’re all so used to hearing again and again. (Of course, shopping for a major workplace outfit upgrade can’t hurt either.)

Confidence can be a bad thing

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. When Fast Company asked readers to share their worst interview experiences (as both interviewer and interviewee), one person wrote in, “I interviewed a lady for a job who must have been really confident in her skills and her desirability for the position. She impatiently listened to the description of the job and what we were looking for, then interrupted me and basically laid out what she would and wouldn’t do, what hours she would work, when she would leave early to pick up her kids, and how much money she expected. I thanked her and dropped her resume in the Shred-It bin when she left.” Yikes!

Getting fired can be a good thing

After her now-infamous firing from The New York Times, former managing editor Jill Abramson advised young women not to let a firing completely ruin them.

“Own getting fired,” she said after the incident. “I don’t think young women—it’s hard, I know—they should not feel stigmatized if they are fired. Especially in this economy, people are fired right and left for arbitrary reasons, and there are sometimes forces beyond your control.”

No days off — seriously

Using your days off to further educate yourself about your industry can end up being a tremendously valuable career move. John Idol, now the CEO of Michael Kors, recently spoke on a panel at a luxury retail summit in New York, and shared a personal story about how he used his time off to get ahead.

“I used to spend my weekends going to stores to learn what I wasn’t being taught at my company,” Idol said. “Yes, millennials, that means your Saturdays and Sundays.”

Networking can be a one-on-one exchange

Perhaps you’re struggling with progressing in your career because you’re more introverted and shy—but success doesn’t always mean knowing how to work a room. Jess Lee, the CEO and co-founder of retail aggregator Polyvore, says that networking can also be successfully achieved in smaller settings.

“I’ll have a lot of one-on-one conversations, because I’m more comfortable in [that] setting,” she explains. “Conference or dinner party or networking event can be an introvert’s worst nightmare. Look for the other introverts in the room. Who are the wallflowers? Go talk to them. Or find the social butterfly who loves introducing people to other people, the connector type. They’ll help make a lot of the introductions so you don’t have to break the ice. Networking is part of my job but one of the parts I’m the least comfortable with.”

You don’t need an advanced degree

Your family or other outside pressures might be hammering it home that you need to get an advanced degree in order to achieve success—whether it’s a law degree, a doctorate, a masters, and so on. But it’s simply not true; many of the world’s most successful people don’t have a bunch of letters after their names.

“I grew up in a Jewish family on Long Island, and there was pressure to become a lawyer or a doctor,” said Philip Goldfarb, now the chief operating officer of the luxurious Fountainebleau Resort in Miami Beach. “After working at a resort, I realized that the managing director had it all: style, authority, charisma, and charm, all while making the job seem fun.”

You can’t wait until you receive an offer to give references

If a potential employer asks for references super early on in the interview process, you should consider that a red flag; the references are usually the last step before you get hired—sometimes, providing references might even come after you get an offer, as a formality with HR to assure you’re legally ready to work for them.

The New York Post tells of one woman who, against her own instincts, provided a potential employer with her current employer’s contact information as a reference early on in the interview process. She soon received a call from her current employer, asking if she was seeking employment elsehwere.

Some career writers suggest a couple different tactics when it comes to references.

“Say, ‘Why would you need that?’ or ‘Should we get to an offer, I will provide references,’” writer Tony Beshara advises. “Breaking trust is a huge red flag. Any company that would do that when you’re a candidate will do much worse if you’re an employee.”

Don’t assume everyone is on your side

While it’s not a great habit to distrust everyone in your workplace, it can also be detrimental to trust them too much. The Internet is filled with no shortage of horror stories about how people have been conned and manipulated by their co-workers.

The best way to approach the people you work with: Simply be inquisitive. Don’t take anything they say at face value, but don’t assume they’re trying to manipulate you either. Weigh all your options carefully, keeping your own best interests always in mind first.

Don’t dress like your colleagues

If you’re starting a new job, one of the first things you are likely to notice is how everyone else in the workplace dresses; and your gut instinct might be to follow suit. But blending in might not be the best idea.

Valerie Grillo, the chief diversity officer at American Express, advises against falling into line, arguing that your authnetic expression of yourself is part of what makes you valuable.

“When I first started managing people at a big company, I had a career coach tell me to straighten my hair, wear more corporate-y suits, and not stand out so much,” she told Bloomberg. “As a Latina, I may be a minority in the corporate world, but I’ve since learned that authenticity makes you valuable.”

Treat your current job as a promotion

If you really want that promotion, it’s time to start acting like it already happened, according to Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer.

“Most people think of a career trajectory as a sloping line. Really, it’s a step function,” Mayer told Fortune magazine. “When you’re ready to take the next step or take on more responsibility, you should start doing your job at the next level.”

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