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Anna Wintour, Editor-in-chief of American Vogue

JEFF ZELEVANSKY

Play hard to get. If you've got it, flaunt it.

They're bits of relationship advice that have been passed on. But they're not just for the dating world: such relationship rules can work just as well for women in their careers, career coach Nicole Williams says in her new book Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success.

Some of the rules may seem counterintuitive, politically incorrect and even downright risky in the current highly competitive job market, but, "to me, the biggest career risk is settling for less than your potential," says Ms. Williams, who recently moved her coaching practice from Vancouver to New York.

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"You want to stand out when there's a lot of competition, so holding out for what you really want can be the very thing that differentiates you from the pack."

In a conversation with Wallace Immen, Ms. Williams, also the author of the Earn What You're Worth and Wildly Sophisticated career advice books for women, outlined some of the dating rules she believes can lead to a dream career match. Here's what she had to say:

Treat him mean to keep him keen

I know this sounds contrary to what many people think they need to do to survive in a bad economy, but a boss is not going to keep people just because they like them. The keepers will be the ones who are performing, because the boss's career survival depends on it.

Sweetness and light and doing whatever is asked without question gives you no leverage. If you want to be respected and in demand, there is one simple strategy: Have guts enough to stand up and have an opinion and be able to say no to bullshit.

A prime example of this is Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine. She may have been mocked in The Devil Wears Prada, but she didn't become a fashion icon by letting people walk all over her. In fact, when she landed an interview with former Vogue editor Grace Mirabella, it ended right after Anna declared it was Ms. Mirabella's job she was after. She was eventually hired at Vogue, after demanding a salary that was double what she was offered.

If you've got it, flaunt it

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It sounds politically incorrect, and I'm not by any stretch of the imagination suggesting that women use sex to get ahead. But attractiveness is a reality, so it doesn't work to women's advantage to hide it and pretend that they are men. What I recommend is that women use their beauty and charm to their strategic advantage.

That's not to suggest going as far as Ivanka Trump, who favours stilettos and isn't afraid to show off what she's got. Even she knows there are limits, as she told me: "I'm a girlie girl. I'm not afraid to be feminine, to wear pink to the office. But there is a line to be drawn ... leveraging what you've got and your feminine wiles, but not to the point where you're doing yourself a disservice."

The key is using the tools you have available as a woman: your clothes, your grace, your ability to flirt, to create attention and attraction.

That said, though, the most consistently attractive things for a woman are being smart, articulate and confident.

Don't expect to change him

Leopards and lousy bosses don't change their spots. The career message is that you should try to find the right boss rather than expecting to change a situation where you are not supported, respected and compensated well for your work.

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A lot of women have a whole list of attributes they want in a man and they don't place that much attention on what they want to find in a boss. If you are in a situation like this, don't spend 20 years in the wrong company with the wrong boss when in fact there may be a better match out there.

Play hard to get

Of course you want to indicate your interest, but if you come across as desperate for a job, it can actually end up repelling employers. You have to come across as though you have other options.

In a job search, even if you are not interested in other jobs, you should go for other interviews just to get a feeling that, if this doesn't work, you have other options. Inevitably, this will make you feel more confident because you do have options and employers will be more interested. If you have other suitors, they might miss the opportunity to get you if they wait too long.

Don't give away your milk for free

This classic warning about waiting for commitment is really applicable to setting the value of your hard work around the office.

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An example is Lauren Hutton, who built her brand as a model by not settling for less than she thought she deserved.

After reading an article in The New York Times about a baseball player getting a lucrative, long-term contract, she decided to refuse to do cosmetic ads until she was given a similar contract. She has said, "I told the agency, 'I'm upping my rate.' They said, 'You can't do that.' I insisted."

A few months later, Revlon offered her an unprecedented contract, the first of its kind in the industry.

You need to feel you are being compensated for the contribution you make. In an era in which budgets are being squeezed, you may have to ask for something more than cash.

But you stand your ground if you say, "If I take this on, I expect something in return," whether that be a BlackBerry account, transportation reimbursement, a day a week to work from home, a gym membership, a laptop or an extra week of vacation for taking on a big project.

Be willing to walk away

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We are talking about garnering peoples' interest, being able to sustain it and being willing to walk away from a situation that doesn't give you advantages. Just like in dating, you don't want to settle for second best and you have to be bold enough to get out there and get what you really want. So many people today have given up without even trying; they are reading the unemployment statistics and saying there's no use. But you've got to get out there. You will face rejection but persevere and use techniques to make yourself unique.

For example, when Katie Couric made the highly publicized move from NBC Today show host to the CBS Evening News, critics argued that she lacked experience in hard journalism.

This year, her show won an Emmy award in the category of outstanding investigative journalism.

A male example is Steve Jobs, who left Apple Computer, the company he co-founded in 1976, during a power struggle with corporate investors in 1985. It turned out Apple just couldn't get enough of him, however, because the company then bought the computer firm he started called NeXt, and Jobs went on to become Apple's CEO and quickly established himself as the voice of the company.

Get a life

This means simply don't sacrifice everything you believe in for the sake of making the boss happy. Remember that working your ass off to become indispensable can result in not having your own life and friends or even a night off.

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In fact, if you have no life outside the office, you begin to be perceived as a loser and you'll find that people will become less supportive. No one likes a martyr who talks about all the hours they put in. The question people eventually begin to ask is: Why does it take you so long?

Don't waste the pretty

Face it, there are only so many optimal peak performance years you've got to work with, so don't waste your prime working with a lousy boss who doesn't appreciate what you have and puts you into a dead-end assignment.

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