Read Lean In or attend a panel discussion of successful executives and you often hear things like, “Then I was offered the opportunity to …” or “Then I was asked to join…”. It can leave the best of us wondering, “What am I doing wrong that I am not in such demand?” What they don’t tell you is that they were offered an opportunity after they asked for it. In a Forbes interview I read, Sheryl Sandberg, Marisa Mayer, and others responded to many different questions, but one answer was consistent to a word: “What advice would you give someone who wants a promotion or raise?” The unanimous response: “Ask for it.
We are taught that if we just work hard, our career will take care of itself. It’s true that you don’t just get the next opportunity because you want it. You have to do the work. AND you have to know when and how to ask for it. As strange as it seems, your boss may not know that you want to move up. Here are some rules of the road:
- Time your ask for when you have just worked on something significant.
- Understand the bigger picture and how your strengths contribute. Consider what’s happening in your industry or organization, and your part in it all.
- Be ready to paint the picture of how your contribution could help even more if you were given the opportunity you are asking for. Have a couple of “war stories” about how you’ve contributed in the past.
- Put yourself in your boss’s shoes. He or she has someone to answer to. What will make your senior leadership even more confident about handing you more responsibility?
- When you ask, make it about more than this opportunity. Remember to reaffirm your commitment to the team and/or the organization.
If it’s not a little uncomfortable, it may not be big enough. When you want it though, you will ask.
All my best,