​​If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get: Why Asserting Yourself is Hard and How to Get Past It

“I really think I deserve this raise. I’ve been told for over six months now that I’m in line for it, but I haven’t heard anything. I guess I’ll just wait till HR gets back to me…”  “I really want this promotion. I have the perfect experience for it, but I don’t know if my manager sees that. I don’t know if I should ask about it.”

 

Whether you are just starting out in your career, or in the management ranks of your company, these comments are all too common, particularly among women. Why are we so hesitant to assert ourselves about our own career paths? We’d rather not “poke the bear” and just let the process unfold, even if that means waiting longer than we should for the eventual outcome, or no outcome at all. 

 

Your career development is as much your responsibility as it is your employer’s. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that your #1 weekly agenda item with your boss should be your promotion. But there are some steps you can take to develop your confidence, find the right way and the right time, to advocate for yourself, and achieve your career goals.

 

  • Make sure you consider any feedback you have received to-date. Have you worked on the areas identified and made measurable progress?

  • Do a level-set. Do you know the skills required for the promotion or project you are seeking, and have you demonstrated some of them? Just because you want it and think you deserve it doesn’t mean you are ready for it.

  • Don’t try and “fake it till you make it” by exaggerating your capabilities. Success in any position requires leading with integrity and authenticity. You don’t want to assume a new position, be exposed for skills you don’t have, and set yourself back.

  • Timing is important. Find a moment when your manager isn’t consumed with crises or critical issues, unless of course, you can help resolve them.

  • Think about your “ask” from the point-of-view of management. What’s in it for them?

  • Check in with other people in the ecosystem. What are their priorities and is there an opportunity at this moment where you could leverage your specific skills?

  • Talk with your mentor and other advisors you trust. They will give it to you straight and tell you what you need to hear about making the ask, and how to frame it.

  • Organize your points logically, thoughtfully, and unemotionally. Frame the matter as a discussion with your boss: not as a mandate, obligation, or threat. Explain the win-win and why making this move will be good for everyone, not just you.

  • Be prepared to ask for a follow up meeting to discuss the matter again after your boss has had time to consider it and talk with others.

  • After the discussion, reassess. What input did you receive: positive, negative, or in-between? What next steps will you take? Did you learn anything new about the opportunity, your path or where the business is headed? 

 

Putting yourself out there in the right way is important on so many levels. What’s the worst that could happen? At a minimum, you might get more information about the current situation, make your interests known, or confirm that you are on track. You might accelerate your advancement, or conversely, realize that the opportunity is no longer there. Either way, you’ve got nothing to lose, and the knowledge you gained can help you plan your next move.

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