Did you know that people can’t read your mind? That your boss can’t reliably guess that you want a lateral transfer? That your clients won’t guess you’d like more money? That your dream career might be a question away?
One of the lessons I learned early as a child, was to ask for what you want, because you might just get it. Best case scenario you get what you asked for. Worst case scenario, whoever you ask says “no.”
I’ve come to realize that this applies to many different facets of life. I’ve shared this teaching during a few different talks, where I also share the family legend that taught us this lesson. I’ve also shared the concept of asking for what you want with anyone who I come in contact with long enough to get mentored and/or coached.
Most recently, while volunteering at a local food bank, I participated in a send off for one of the summer employees, a university student who was going back to Ottawa to finish their final year at Carleton University.
One of the other people there asked what career the departing employee wanted to pursue after graduation. This resulted in a round robin of those of us with more experience sharing our thoughts to the young adults also present. My contribution was the advice to ask for what you wanted, because you just might get it.
This can apply to jobs, funding for a business or not for profit, the hourly rate you charge as a consultant, and pretty much anything else up to and including relationships.
Let’s focus on two examples.
I’m a member of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW International). This year I’ve attended many virtual events hosted in Zoom. During a recent session I met an American woman veteran. We set up a follow-up Zoom meeting to chat about services that BPW could provide Military Affiliated Women (women who are serving military, veterans, or the spouse of someone in these categories). I have to admit Military Affiliated Women is the best name for this group of women that I’ve ever heard. My new friend Barbara Bozeman told me it wasn’t trademarked and we should use it widely, within BPW and beyond.
Barbara also shared a story about asking for what she wanted. A couple of years ago, she was organizing a working lunch with speakers to help raise funds for the Military Affiliated Women’s grant that her BPW group offers. While organizing the event she explored a number of catering websites, looking for an affordable option. The catering site that most appealed to her didn’t list any prices, it suggested that potential clients complete an online form explaining what their event was, including the purpose, and what sort of meals were being sought. The website stated that a quote would be sent to the client after the company reviewed their request. Barbara was looking for affordable, high quality food and catering. After the company read her submission, they came back with an offer to do the catering for free! You can’t get more affordable than that!
One of the most challenging things about running my own business is figuring out what to charge for my services. Over time, I’ve learned that it’s OK to ask for the fees you want from clients. Sometimes they say yes, which means if I’d asked for less, I would have left money on the table. Sometimes they negotiate for a fee that is more in line with their budget, and that’s OK! When both sides ask for what they want, and are willing to discuss the terms of the contract, both can walk away feeling like they’ve won. Because they asked for what they wanted.
I encourage you to ask for what you want, for your education, your work and your personal life. You might just get what you ask for! If you don’t, you can ask someone else, revise what you’re willing to accept, or stay with the status quo. We all have so many opportunities!
Sometimes people even offer to help without the ask. I'm grateful to Shawn Adams, Human Resources Management, Leadership & Management, Training & Development, Facilitation/Instruction, Guidance & Service Delivery Specialist, for pointing out a couple of typos which have been corrected!