It’s a simple concept, but I often reflect on the importance of asking for what you want in life, including what you hope to get from your career. This blindingly obvious piece of advice is something I’ve seen people ignore far too frequently, and I’ve witnessed those same individuals grow frustrated when others - colleagues, bosses and loved ones - fail to read their minds.
I was reminded of this while on a recent business trip where my flight was cancelled and I faced the daunting prospect of spending five hours in a relatively small and boring airport. As frequent business travelers know, that’s never a fun prospect no matter how strong the free wi-fi is or how late the lone Starbucks stays open.
As luck would have it, I was traveling with a co-worker who took a shot at asking if we could jump on a flight that was almost done boarding and not wait for our assigned flights. In my past experience, this type of last-minute request has about a 25 percent chance of being granted – if you have excellent karma or lived a truly virtuous past life. My hopes weren’t especially high to get on that flight, but I knew we had a shot.
Five minutes later we were boarding the plane and my five-hour layover had completely disappeared.
This experience reminded me of something I’ve found to be true numerous times in my personal life and career: The odds of getting what you want are far less if you never ask for the things you desire.
Do you want to lead an exciting new project at work or take on more responsibility? Never wait to get asked to do something you really want to do. Instead, ask your boss about the idea or opportunity you have in mind. The biggest risk is that you’ll get told no, but I’m sure he or she will appreciate the initiative you showed and probably reward you in the future when the time is right.
Although asking for what you want is practical advice in general, keep a few simple guidelines in mind:
What you ask for should be ethical and moral. Enough said.
Mutually beneficial asks are most effective. If both sides win, why would anyone say no?
Be nice. There are times when a hard line is necessary, but not being rude, arrogant or annoying is usually the best approach.
Be clear. If you need to write it out so you won't forget anything, do it.
Be realistic. Asking to become CEO of your company is going to take some time … and maybe a few intermediate steps.
Don't be afraid to ask again later, but follow the guidelines above.
Every time that I’ve failed to ask for what I truly wanted, I regretted the decision later. Life is too short to regret what you could or should have asked for in the past.
For those who need more advice and a step by step process, there is a surprisingly useful WikiHow available to guide your efforts.