I remember a lot about my first internship — and most vividly, I remember what I wore. Following orders from a career counselor at my university, I went out and bought a pantsuit. I thought the outfit was a little formal, but my advisor was insistent and urged me to "follow proper etiquette." As it turned out, my office had a super casual environment, and my formal getup made me stick out like a like a giant pimple on class picture day. That night, I retired all of my suits to the back of my closet and promised to never blindly follow an old-school, outdated career "rule" again.
Through the years, I’ve kept my promise. I resigned from my first job after two months despite being told I should stay at a company for at least a year, and just recently I left my salaried-with-benefits position to pursue freelancing to go back to school. In both scenarios, my unconventional decisions have ultimately led to success. My departure from my first job launched my thriving writing career, and today, technology like the HP Spectre x360 — a sleek, high performance laptop featuring privacy screen with a touch of the button and a Fingerprint reader for quick unlocks — makes working from coffee shops, libraries and co-working spaces convenient and easy so I never miss a deadline.
Experts like Romy Newman, co-founder and president of career advice community Fairygodboss, agree that so-called career "rules" need to be broken, both to help women steer clear of the pitfalls of their career journey and to reduce the discouragement women already face about what they can and can't accomplish. To help more women reinvent their professional lives on their own terms, Bustle teamed up with HP to round up the biggest career rules you need to forget — like, yesterday.
1. Rule To Break: Only Apply For Jobs You Know You’re Qualified For
Studies have found that women are promoted based on performance, or what they've already accomplished, while men are promoted based on potential, or what someone thinks they can accomplish.
“The bar for women to get promoted is much higher than it is for men,” Newman says. “Women handicap themselves constantly because we require such a high bar of knowledge and experience to achieve confidence.”
To reverse this way of thinking, Newman encourages women to aim high and apply for jobs based on their potential versus experience, despite reservations or fear of failure. “Raise your hand for big assignments, even if you don’t think you are qualified.”
2. Rule To Break: Stay Humble
Women are far less likely than men to make their accomplishments known, explains Anna Wood, a career coach and Founder/CEO of Brains over Blonde, a feminist lifestyle platform that advocates for gender equality in the workplace. Men are more likely to make sure everyone in the office knows about their big sales deal, while many women will silently congratulate themselves or let their boss know via email.
Wood’ advice when it comes to workplace performance? Never assume that everyone else knows about the great work you're doing, and make your triumphs known.
“Those with more public successes are more likely to get raises and promotions,” Wood says. “When you have a big win, let people know! It's not cocky or rude, it's exciting! Others will want to celebrate your hard work.”
3. Rule To Break: Dress To Blend In, Not To Stand Out
In the past, Wood has been told to "tone down" her appearance in the work place by avoiding a lot of makeup, flashy colors, and ornate accessories in order to be taken more seriously. She rejects this outdated advice, and recommends other women join her.
“Our society believes in this false dichotomy between female attractiveness and competence," Wood explains. “I believe a lot of this advice is to make women appear less ‘threatening’ and ‘distracting’ to men.”
This rule negative impacts women by limiting the ways they can express themselves, and prevents them from dressing in a way that makes them feel the most confident, Wood says.
“I say — as long as you're dressed appropriately for your workplace — express your style and wear whatever the hell you want."
4. Rule To Break: Don’t Rock The Boat
Almost every woman has had the experience of being interrupted in a meeting or had their exact point repeated by a man who later gets all the credit, Wood says. In the past, women have often been advised to just let it go for fear of losing social clout, being disliked, or labeled unkindly.
Wood believes it’s time to stop being complicit to these repeat offenses.
“Now's the time to speak up," Wood advises. "If you see or hear anyone being mistreated in the office, say something. Even if you choose to be subtle, people will take note, learn from it, and hopefully not do it again. Once it becomes a repeat offense or a systemic problem, raise the issue more directly or go to HR.”
5. Rule To Break: Your (Female) Coworkers Are Your Competition
Many a movie and book storyline revolve around the concept of office rivals, but in reality, your coworkers shouldn’t be your competition — they should be your collaborators.
“The only path to gender equality will come when women come together and support one another,” Newman explains. “Getting more women into leadership positions can make the biggest difference to a company culture and help women blow past the inertia of subtle discrimination.”
Newman encourages all women to reach out to other women in their workplaces who may need help, or could do something better, because "we'll all get ahead faster if we work together.”
This post is sponsored by HP.