Apple said, "We're going to give away music for free! And we're not paying any of the artists!" Taylor Swift responded, "Well, you're not giving away mine!" And Apple? It immediately caved. (These are not direct quotes, by the way.)

Would that we all had the power of Taylor Swift. Wouldn't it be nice to say "no, you won't" and have someone cower in the corner and say "you're right, ma'am. We won't"? Here's the secret--you can have this power in your career. Here's how.

Recognize you're the boss of yourself.

We often see our bosses as kind of this permanent overlord. The truth is, that person is only your boss because you've consented to work for him. Yes, your boss can fire you, but you can fire your boss as well. It's true that if no one is willing to pay you, you'll be in trouble, but it's equally true that if no one is willing to work for your boss, he'll be in trouble. The key is finding the balance. Apple tried to say "I'm your boss" to Swift and all musicians, and Swift just refused. She recognized she had power over herself, and she exercised that power.

Don't give up your bargaining power.

Swift has lots of money (somewhere upward of $200 million). She doesn't need whatever money she would have earned from Apple's new music service, so she has bargaining power. It won't hurt her one bit to walk away from that deal.

Now, while many of Inc.'s readers are fabulously successful, I'm pretty sure that very few of us have $200 million in our bank accounts. So, how can we have Swift's bargaining power? There are a couple of ways.

First, never, ever quit your job without a new one lined up. Unless your physical or mental health is at risk by staying in your current job, don't just quit. As soon as you quit a job, you lose a great deal of bargaining power when negotiating the next job. The hiring managers know that if you don't take this job, you're in big trouble. So, you're weaker. When your boss is annoying, or you get passed over for promotion, or you're working far more hours than you want to, quitting and taking some time off seems like good sense, but don't do it.

Second, stay out of debt and start saving. When you're in debt, you can feel trapped. You can't quit your job and take a lower-paying one you like better, because you have a mortgage and student loans and credit card bills. If you're in debt now, getting out should be your highest priority. When you're not financially strapped, you have a lot more freedom in what jobs you take and what jobs you turn down.

Say no clearly.

Many of us don't stand up for ourselves the way we should. We hem and haw and give in. Swift gave a clear message. She started out saying, "I write this to explain why I'll be holding back my album, 1989, from the new streaming service, Apple Music." Note, she doesn't start out by saying, "I've been kind of thinking about maybe holding back my album." She begins by saying precisely what she's doing, and then she explains why.

She starts from a position of strength and lets Apple respond to her, which it did rather rapidly. If you look around your office and you note that you're the one staying late while everyone else is out the door at 5, or you're the one who is always taking the bad projects or dealing with the unpleasant clients, it's probably because your boss never hears you saying no. You may be saying, "Well, I'd prefer not to handle Mrs. Jones," and you mean no, but your boss hears, "She's willing to handle Mrs. Jones." Be straightforward instead.

Sure, we may not be able to sing like Taylor Swift, but using a few of her methods can put us in control of our own careers.

Published on: Jun 22, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.