7 Secret Dating Rules That Can Also Help You Kill It At Work

From one jungle to another — how to apply dating strategies to the workplace.

working woman using phone Petryshak / Shutterstock

When I lost my job, the last thing I needed was a blank social calendar and an empty bed. There's only so much disappointment one girl can take. This modern-day Dorothy wanted to click her heels and have the perfect profession and pillow pal land right into her lap.

Was that too much to ask? Maybe not. Nicole Williams says you can snag both with the same advice. 

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In her book, Girl on Top, Williams suggests the tactics used to land a man can also be applied effectively in the office.

Can classic dating rules help you climb the career ladder? After all, the game's the same, right?

1. Follow your heart.

Dating Tactic: So you have your standards. Good for you! You deserve the best and you're certainly not desperate. Someone's bound to tick all the boxes, right? But do demigods exist? Crossing off some of Mr. Right's criteria isn't asking for less. It's opening up your options. 

Cubicle Tactic: In a perfect world, our job would fulfill our passions and carve a path for a life-long career. But remember, no job will match all your needs—unless you're the CEO. If you're turning down offers while putting your finances on the line, think twice. And remember, it may not be the perfect job—but it could be the perfect job for now. Each job leads to the next one.


2. Treat him mean, keep him keen.

Dating Tactic: Nothing kills attraction faster for men than a pushover. That constant attention men crave at the beginning mutates into clinginess down the road. Mean girls, on the other hand, put themselves first, are always up for a challenge, and never bore. Why? Because they're confident in their skin. They ooze power and mystery. Guppies don't survive in the dating game. Sometimes it pays to be a shark. 

Cubicle Tactic: Nice girls rarely get the corner office. While women hold more than half of all management and professional positions, they make up less than two percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. Altruism and empathy only get you so far. In this dog-eat-dog world, great leaders are tough, competitive, and assertive — traditionally masculine qualities women struggle to — but absolutely must—master.

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3. Don't bash your ex.

Dating Tactic: Reminiscing about your ex's tyrannical rampages and bad cooking to a potential beau is just bad form. Your rude remarks raise red flags for the person you should be trying to impress. While you're spewing insults, he's wondering if you're still hung up on the former flame, or worse, imagining these flaws will pass into your new relationship. A pity party in honor of your ex only reflects badly on you. 


Cubicle Tactic: You'll almost always be asked why you left your last position. You want to come off as a mature, competent employee looking toward the future, not a sniveling schemer who just can't move on. Bad mouth your former boss and your interviewer has no choice but think you'll do that same about him when the time comes. Also, when the time does come, make sure you exit with grace. What might be a cathartic parting shot now can become a negative reference letter later. Always be diplomatic.

4. Don't expect to change him.

Dating Tactic: If he's a frog, you aren't going to turn him into Prince Charming. Period. Don't assume a year down the road you'll have morphed your man into who you'd imagine he'd become. Men change only if they want to. Know what you signed up for and have realistic expectations. Most ingrained behaviors are permanent, so either leave that fixer upper for someone else or learn to cope.

Cubicle Tactic: You're continuously doing stellar work, clocking in overtime, and tackling new projects. And yet there's no whiff of a raise or promotion. Plus your boss seems perfectly content with stealing credit for your work while keeping you under her thumb. Corporate culture is a tough nut to crack. Remember, there's no shame in moving on to a new position or company if you find you're not going to get what you want out of your current situation. Better yet, assess the organization's capacity for change before you sign on. Don't help build your own glass ceiling.

5. Play hard to get.

Dating Tactic: For most men, it's all about the thrill of the chase. And there's nothing more enticing than a picky woman. If you give in too easily, he'll assume you're liable to be conquered by any old shmo. Dangle that forbidden fruit and make him battle for your affections. That way when he finally wins you over, he'll know you're the best of the bunch. Plus, he'll work harder to keep you if he knows you can find someone better.


Cubicle Tactic: Williams suggests a good way to become indispensable is to make yourself scarce. That is, become an expert or specialist in an area that brands you the go-to person for the job. Building a reputation based on this unique quality makes you in demand. And when you're in demand, you're high in management's mind for top projects and promotions. Just be sure to deliver.

6. Don't give away your milk for free.

Dating Tactic: You've finally found a decent man — no way you're letting him slip away. You're so eager to please, you're willing to lay it all out there just to keep him around. So what if he gets sex, companionship, and cooking without the commitment? Well, without the promise of something more, you're left co-dependent and at his every whim. Men won't go for a home run when an easy bunt will keep them in the game.

Cubicle Tactic: Studies show women ask for 32 percent less than men for the same job. Why do we sell ourselves short? Are we afraid we'll be turned down? Or do we lack bargaining savvy? Initiate salary negotiations and tell employers what you're worth. Don't just throw out a nice round number though. Do your homework: see what other people in the positions are earning, research the industry, and leverage your experience. Don't ask, don't get!

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7. Don't waste the pretty.

Dating Tactic: You're a year into your relationship, the fire's gone, and you've settled in for the long haul. That's normal, right? Doesn't the new car smell fade with every relationship? Besides, you're not getting any younger and the good ones are already taken, right? Wrong. Just because Mr. Right doesn't exist doesn't mean you should settle for Mr. Right Now.

Cubicle Tactic: Hate your job? Join the club. Work's called "work" for a reason. But when does your dissatisfaction reach a point of no return? Well if the thought of your cubicle makes you physically sick, you've reached a plateau with no room for advancement, or your colleagues drive you to drink, it's time to draft that resignation letter. Never sacrifice your health or sanity for a paycheck. Chop down the dangling carrot and make a clean break. You may find you can have all you're looking for if you just look somewhere else.

Business, like dating, has rules of engagement. Ultimately, only you can determine the best ways to get what you want — and deserve. With the dating game and the job market more cutthroat than ever, I'm up for any advice that helps me get ahead in the hunt. Now if only someone would help me balance my checkbook, I'd be all set.


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