So you have an ambition. You really want to achieve it. You know you’d be great at it. All you need is … for someone to just find you, realise how good you are, pluck you from obscurity and helicopter you right into the middle of your dream, where you work happily ever … all you need to do is keep plugging away and someone will eventually realise how great you are – right?
No. This is Disney Princess syndrome.
… 🎶 someday my promotion will come 🎶 …
We have shaken off this approach to romance, so let’s banish it from the career sphere too. Here is a quick how-to.
Mistake #1: Don’t ask, don’t get
The people with the power to help you will not one day wake up and realise you are that one perfect employee they’ve been waiting for, because they are not mind-readers. Even the most proactive and switched-on of bosses isn’t going to spend hours second-guessing what you might want to do, how you might want to improve and progress. They don’t have time. So for one thing, no one is going to spontaneously present you with the kind of opportunity you’ve been hankering after and wondering whether to go for. And if they do, they might have a good guess about what you want, but their guess might not be absolutely spot-on. Your guess, however, is spot-on! So you need to get that out in the open.
In short, if you don’t ask, you’re very unlikely to get just what you want. At the very best, you’ll get some kind of approximation of it.
But you’re worried you’re asking too much, right? You’re asking people to inconvenience themselves by advocating for you, or promoting your interests when these probably aren’t a business priority … perhaps you think what you’re asking for is so far beyond the bounds of possibility that it’s ridiculous you’re even asking.
Don’t indulge these fears, and …
Mistake #2: Apologising
… do not apologise for asking, and do not make any suggestion that what you are asking would in any way inconvenience anyone.
I know this is a lot to ask, but I would really appreciate…
Would you have time to … ? Obviously only if you have capacity …
Sorry to bother you, but …
No, no, no.
No one is doing you a favour by helping you. If you were asking an inconvenient favour, they probably just wouldn’t do it. Apologising for asking for something makes it sound like it isn’t perfectly normal and acceptable that you should get what you want and deserve. If you apologise, you simply harm your chances, you give the other person a way out, the ability to say, ‘yes indeed this IS too much to ask, as you yourself have admitted’. You don’t need to worry that you’re taking up too much of someone’s time and effort. They’re adults; they can look after their own diary. Of course, you should be polite, but you shouldn’t be servile or nervous. You do in fact have a claim on someone’s time and effort, if you are their employee. If you apologise, you simply validate your dependence, when the relationship should be framed as the mutually beneficial arrangement that it is.
So do not apologise; do assert (politely). In doing so, you project your belief that you are worth these investments of time and effort, and compel others to believe the same. (I wrote more about this in The Confidence Manifesto.)
Tl;dr: the real world is not Disney. Promotions and pay rises won’t fall into your lap like a handsome prince rescuing you from a tower. You need to speak up and grab your dream.
I have given this advice to friends and it is proven to work!! When it works for you, I’d love to hear about it. ☺️