I recently negotiated the terms of a new job and did something I had never done before – I asked for what I wanted. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? It didn’t feel easy. For most women, making demands on behalf of our kids, our friends, and our husbands comes fairly naturally, but when it comes to identifying and asking for what we need in our careers or our relationships, we often hesitate, second-guess ourselves and, ultimately, settle for less than we deserve.
There are probably several psychological and sociological reasons for this. Perhaps we have a greater need than men to be perceived as likable and easy-going. Perhaps we have a more innate fear of rejection. The reasons don’t really matter. Let’s just agree to stop grinning and bearing the less-than-ideal. Here are some tips on how to best position yourself to speak up on behalf of YOU in your career.
Don’t Wait Until You Are Desperate To Make A Change.
Waiting until you are completely miserable with a situation before you make a move almost guarantees that you will settle for any alternative. For fear that you won’t get an offer and your seemingly last chance to get out will pass you by, you’ll take a lower salary, you won’t fight for an appropriate title, you won’t ask for flexibility up front. Instead, if you keep your eyes and ears open and take chances on new opportunities just as you realize your current job may not be for you, you’ll be in a better position to ask for what you really want to make a move that will be long-lasting. If you don’t get what you ask for, no harm done, you won’t be so miserable in your current situation that you can’t stand waiting for the next one.
Do Go In Prepared.
No matter how confident you are, you won’t get a “yes” if you are requesting something unreasonable and you won’t be respected for it. Do your homework. If it’s more money you’re after, find out what you’re really worth in the market. If it’s flexibility, think through what makes sense for your job (not just for your personal life) and be able to articulate what the advantage to your employer would be. Practice the conversation with your spouse or a friend so they can ask you difficult questions you don’t see coming. Also, go in with alternative options in case your first request is rejected.
Don’t Worry That People Won’t Like You.
Asking for more money in a negotiation or a raise during performance reviews may be one of the most difficult things to do in your career. They will think I’m greedy! They will think I’m arrogant and demanding! Maybe I don’t deserve it! The thing is, you can’t control what people think. They may already think those things about you for other reasons, or they may think you are passive and don’t care about your career. Either way, you’ll never know, and what matters most is that you are getting what you deserve. If it’s done in the right way (see all of the “Do”’s), the most likely result is that you’ll be respected for asking, you may get what you ask for, and if you don’t get it this time, you may learn what you need to do to get it the next time. Having been in the HR world for a few years I can tell you that peoples’ memories of negotiations are short-lived, especially if the employee ends up doing a great job.
Do Ask With A Smile.
Being prepared, confident, and unconcerned with whether people like you does not mean that you have to be unlikable. If you are able to maintain a positive attitude during these difficult conversations, express appreciation for the opportunities you have already received, and be mindful of your team as a whole, you will be met with the same respect. You may even get more than what you asked for. If they still choose not to like or respect you, well that is on them, and it shouldn’t stop you from pursuing what you need.
Don’t Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth.
If you do get what you ask for, appreciate it, express gratitude for it. And don’t disappoint. Women who prove that they are worth the money, time, status, who prove they are worth saying “yes” to, are advancing women as a whole. Be one of those women.
Do Try Again.
If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work the first time. Stay positive, keep your eyes open (what you thought you wanted the first time may not have even been the right thing) and, by all means, do not settle for anything but the best for yourself.