So many of the sentiments in her post were directly in line with my take on life, as seen by my own blog posts about the perks of relocating, a breakup letter to NYC, fears about taking an abnormal career path, and endless posts with the reminder message that happiness is a choice.
But one of the ideals in Mallory’s post really stood out to me as something I haven’t given enough consideration in my own life. Her story holds a lesson we– particularly as women– need to adopt with much more regularity in pursuit of our personal happiness and success.
When talking about her new job as on-camera talent for a news station in Alabama, Mallory said this:
“Are you wondering how I got that job? I asked for it. I pushed aside any self-doubt and I thought to myself, If you don’t ask for what you want in life the answer will always be ‘no’. Turns out, more often than not, the answer is ‘yes’.”
ASK and you shall recieve. What a concept!
I think we’ve all heard the statistic that x% fewer women ask for raises in comparison to men. Women notoriously don’t want to rock the boat. We apologize excessively. We turn demands into questions and periods into exclamation points. Leadership is blurred with b****iness if the leader at hand has boobs. Women are in charge of remembering coworker birthdays and providing homemade cookies for the office on summer Fridays. Women are needy and emotional if they ask their bosses for feedback or mentorship, while men who do the same are go-getters. Women are critiqued by the warmness of their welcome, while men are critiqued by the firmness of their handshake.
Now, of course, there are many exceptions. I’ve had multiple male bosses who were incredibly thoughtful, warm, and happy to mentor me. I also worked with a female V.P. who commanded the complete respect of clients without being labeled the b-word. But I will say that she smiled a lot in addition to providing expert knowledge…so I can’t help but wonder if she would’ve obtained the same clout had she not exuded such geniality.
Before I get too down the rabbit hole of comparing the expectations for men vs. women in the workplace, let me get back to the point, which is that we need to ask for what we want. And that seems to be a harder task for women, in general.
Asking for something means you think you should have it. Believing you are worthy of something is a direct reflection of confidence. Mallory was confident enough in her experiences and eloquence that she could be a successful on-air journalist. Instead of waiting for a job offer to fall in her lap, she found a job she wanted, and asked for it.
This is different than submitting a resume. Now, we don’t all have connections at our company of choice to call someone up and say, “Hey, can I come work for you?” But we can all network and create relationships in order to eventually be in such a place to request a referral or direct consideration for a position.
For instance, when I was interested in working full-time for The Huffington Post (instead of sporadically writing for them as a featured blogger), I reached out to a friend of a friend who works for them. After exchanging emails, we arranged a phone call, during which I explained to her my interests and asked if she could get my foot in the door. As it turned out, I couldn’t secure the position I wanted unless I moved to a different state, but I got a heck of a lot closer to my goal than had I submitted myself online amongst the hundreds of other hopefuls.
Asking someone for anything can feel overbearing, desperate, or uncomfortable. We don’t want to be a nuisance. We don’t want to make that person feel awkward if they can’t fulfill our request. We don’t want to face rejection.
But what if the answer is “yes”? Like Mallory said– it usually is. Although I didn’t start working at HuffPo, the answer was “Yes, I’ll help you get your foot in the door.” Or how about this one: I’ve asked for a raise once in my life. Guess what? I got it.
Openly asking for what you want isn’t only a beneficial habit in the career world, though. I’ve joked that I’m the queen of inviting myself places, but no shame in my game! If I want to go somewhere, I ask. (Don’t worry, I’m well aware of social cues and appropriateness…it’s not like I’m inviting myself to weddings.) If I want tips for working out, I ask. If I want a bite of your pizza, I ask.
This isn’t about taking advantage of other people or being too lazy to do things yourself. This is about getting where you want to be in life. Pretty much nothing falls into your lap. A job, a party, a personalized workout plan, a piece of pizza. You have to make it happen, often with the help of another person. There are only two catches:
- You need to be prepared and worthy of any help
- You need to pay it forward
As far as #1 goes, don’t be the person who asks for something, but doesn’t actually deserve that “yes.” Don’t ask to guest blog, then write a cruddy 300 word essay. Don’t ask to be a news reporter, then show up in jeans and messy hair. (Mallory looks perfect on camera every single time, just FYI.) Don’t ask for a bite of pizza when you have strep throat.
Hopefully, #2 is just as much a given as #1. If you get “yes”s from other people, be one to help when you become the one with insight or opportunity to offer. Have patience. Be encouraging. Lift others up, because success is not a competition.
But the biggest take away here is to ASK. Do so kindly, thankfully, and professionally (if applicable)…and just do it.
One last story: A few years ago, I met an incredibly kind man at a work conference. I was absolutely floored by his ability to make me feel comfortable when I was new, overwhelmed, and completely incapable of “talking business.” I genuinely enjoyed our conversation, and felt like he was someone I hoped would come back into my life, even though he lived in Tennessee. For the record, I thought none of this in a romantic sense. He was older, married, and had kids. I just liked his aura as a shining light amongst a sea of business people to whom I couldn’t relate, and found his willingness to move beyond industry-talk wildly refreshing.
Weeks later, I randomly learned that he was a deacon at his church in Tennessee. For months, I’d been thinking about revisiting my faith (at this point I hadn’t gone to church in almost 7 years), so I’d visited a few churches in Arlington (where I lived). Having not quite found what I was looking for, I thought that perhaps I should ask for direction. Hmm, that kind man visits the area often for work, so maybe he’ll know of a place! I didn’t feel too awkward about reaching out, because anyone who is a deacon at a church can’t possibly feel weird about being asked for spiritual guidance…even through the unlikely medium of LinkedIn, from a girl he met one time at a conference. Turns out, he had a connection at an incredible church in my area, and that connection put me in touch with a woman from their congregation who turned out to be the most amazing mentor I’ve ever had. She completely rejuvenated my faith and helped me in ways I’ll never be able to repay. You see, all it took for me to make a real spiritual change was simply to ask.
We can’t expect life to give us all we’ve ever wanted, wrapped in a pretty bow. We have to work hard, take advantage of opportunities, and furthermore, ask for what we want! Just like you can’t win the lottery if you don’t play, you can’t hear a “yes” unless you ask the question.
And that, folks, is why I ask my husband to scratch my back every night.