Go For It: How to Ask for What You Want

Whether it’s a raise, a boost in responsibilities, or even just a little time off, asking for what you want in the workplace can be one of the most difficult tasks on your to-do list. It’s taken years (and years) for me to become comfortable and confident in asking for what I want at work, and there are still times when I find myself struggling to ask the (potentially) uncomfortable questions.

Now, I’m no Sheryl Sandberg, but I have picked up a few tips and tricks that I can share with you today to help you go for it—and ask for what you want. After all, asking the tough questions, standing up for yourself, and being your own advocate is crucial for long-term success, happiness, and overall satisfaction at work. And, there’s no one in this world who knows what you want (and sometimes need) better than you do.  Now, let’s get into it…

Be Clear. Being as specific as possible is key when voicing a request at work (and in real life, too). It’s up to you to do everything you can to rule out miscommunication, lack of understanding, or confusion around workplace requests. Instead of saying something like, “I need a little more time to work on this project,” make sure your question is completely clear, like this one: “Would it be possible to extend my deadline until tomorrow by noon?” If you lay all the details out on the table, you’re more likely to get the answer you’re looking for.

Remember Your Value. If you don’t truly believe that you deserve that big promotion, no one else will. Remind yourself of all of your accomplishments, and run through a list of all of your positive assets. A little confidence boost can change the tone of any workplace conversation, and will allow you to voice your request in an assertive and poised manner. Think about what you’re asking for, and go over all of the reasons why you deserve it. And if you need a little extra help in this department, you can always jot down a list, so you can easily remind yourself if you start to waver.

Body Language. Did you know that altering your body language even the tiniest bit can make you feel more powerful, confident and optimistic? A friend sent me a link to this Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy a while ago, and it’s something that I think about often. Not only does your body language affect how others perceive you, but it can actually change the way that you think and feel about yourself. Crossing your arms, looking at the ground, and hunching your shoulders will not only make you look less assertive when you’re asking for what you want, but it can also MAKE you feel less confident and comfortable. So look your boss straight in the eye, sit a little taller, and use your body language to your advantage.

Write it Down. When I’m gearing up for a conversation that might be difficult to have (whether it’s asking for a salary increase, voicing a concern or putting yourself up for that promotion), I think that preparation is key. I’ll write down or type out my thoughts—nothing fancy, just bullet points. Writing (or typing) out your thoughts helps you organize them, and will allow you to prepare for the conversation ahead. The old saying is true—you can NEVER be too prepared. So write it down, read it over, and even practice with a friend or family member. It can be really helpful to give yourself a test-run before you head to the main event.

Be Gracious. This one is super important. Being gracious and asking for what you want in a calm, confident, and POSITIVE tone can make or break it. Most of the time, it’s not necessarily what you say, but how you say it. When asking for that well-deserved raise, make sure to acknowledge how grateful you are for the job you have, the opportunities it has provided you and the experience that you have gained. Assuring your boss/manager/CEO that you truly are appreciative of what they’ve done for you will set the right tone and allow for a productive conversation. If you’re aggressive, give ultimatums or speak negatively about the company, the conversation could go in a very different direction. Placing blame  and/or complaining is never a good idea, either. Keep it positive, ladies.

Don’t Let a ‘No’ Bring You Down. This might be the most important piece of advice that I have to give you. Don’t let a ‘no’ determine your value, or veer you off your desired path. Every single one of us will hear the word ‘no’ more than once in our lifetime. It doesn’t mean that you should give up, or that you don’t deserve what you asked for. We need to think of as ‘no’ as incentive to keep up the hard work and continue to challenge yourself. You’ll get there eventually. Also, I’ve found that the most personal and professional growth has come from situations where I don’t get what I want, and I have to figure out creative ways to make things work.

Now, most of these tips and tricks not only apply to asking for what you want in the workplace, but also in your personal life. I’ve found that the most meaningful lessons that I’ve learned at work also translate to my everyday life.

Do you have any tried and true tips on how to ask for what you want in the workplace? Share them in the comments!

Team LC