It is difficult to ask for what we need career-wise.
But, that hesitation doesn’t make us less deserving. We all have something we need, whether it is guidance, a more flexible schedule, increased challenge or exposure.
But we are fearful. We hesitate. We role-play the potential outcome of the conversations in our minds.
To progress in today’s world of work, mastering “the ask” is an absolute necessity. Wherever you find yourself in your career journey — asking for what we need is simply a challenge we must overcome. If not we begin to “whither on the vine”.
How do we address this common problem? Rather than examining the “hows” of asking for what we need — let’s examine the “whys” behind our hesitation.
A few things that hold us back:
- We’re in the dark about our performance. In some cases, we are simply unsure of our actual worth. Why? Because we don’t seek honest feedback. Asking your boss, clients or colleagues, “How did you feel about the work I completed?” is a fair and reasonable question. So — ask away. We need to know where we stand to feel we are in any position of power. Gathering the facts is really the only way.
- A couple of “hard knocks”. In part, this is all a confidence game, and we have all experienced setbacks at work. Because of these experiences, we can develop a bit of a “blind spot” concerning our true value. We become guarded and hesitate to take risks. In the end, we have to look at failures as learning experiences — then commit to looking forward. Just remember, you are in good company.
- We hate to brag. This is really tough one. Most of us feel we shouldn’t “toot our own horn” or play up our strengths. However, to secure that needed “leg up” — we need to ensure that others are noticing our work. A little well-placed “Marketing” is a necessity. Mention skills and accomplishments as “data points” that directly relate to the opportunities that are being discussed.
- We don’t like to ask for anything. You may not like to depend on anyone to help secure your future. You may even think this would cause you to appear needy or less competent. Remember that no one is an island. It actually takes many people to build a meaningful career. So open yourself up to reach out.
- We’ve made unreasonable comparisons. Sometimes we feel unworthy because we are drawing unhealthy comparisons in relation to the careers of others (and judging ourselves harshly). We feel we don’t measure up and don’t have any claim to valuable outcomes. The imposter syndrome can also be at play — so be sure to face your doubts, as they are likely unreasonable.
- We are afraid of the word “No”. The prospect of being rejected is never a pleasant — and hearing a negative response is a possibility. However, remember that we have the ability to recover.
This dynamic takes time to overcome. Simply start small and work your way forward. Asking for what you want or deserve might be difficult the first time around — but the process will get easier.
Just remember this: If you ask — you just may get.
Have you been faced with this dilemma? What happened?
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.