Yesterday, I asked for a job that I was not qualified for. I knew I would be told no, but what if? The potential outcomes are infinite. What if they needed a more junior position but had not yet mentioned it? What if future potential was more important to them? What if they had a friend who was hiring? What if, what if, what if? The point is, I have no freaking clue what was going to happen, so I asked.
This means, I had to deal with rejection. They were going to tell me no. So what? About the worst outcome is they may consider me overconfident and overambitious. Again… so what? And honestly, I kinda am. Is it all that bad? I mean yea... there are faults, but it can be quite the boon as well. If I developed a reputation for overconfidence it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Who do you want, the overeager junior employee, or the lazy senior?
No surprise here, I did not get the job. I did walk away with something special though. Human interaction. After I was told no, I thanked them for considering it, reiterated my determination, and wished them luck. Interestingly, I am now “in the market” for the job. In my mind, and in theirs, I am in the candidate pool for this job. Granted, I’m drowning at the bottom of the pool, but I’m in there baby!
Well, what the hell is this blog post about? Good question, considering I’m tearing into my fourth paragraph and I haven't even gotten around to it. It’s about asking for the things you want.
People are innately selfish. That is not a bad thing. I go to work. I earn money. It’s in my bank account. I pay my bills first. With the remnants, I do my best to help others. I come first though. There is nothing wrong with this mentality. that’s how we survive. If we gave away everything we would have nothing. We would become the burden of others. Even the most generous of people must consider their needs before yours. This is why you should ask for things. In their mind, you will always be playing second fiddle to them.
Now let’s be clear. I want to step back a moment to make a point. Asking people for stuff all the time gets superrrrrrrrr annoying. It becomes begging. Do not beg. Ask for the big stuff in life. Don’t go asking for a buck every time someone takes out their wallet. Ask for what you wish you had but you were afraid of the answer. That promotion you keep getting passed on. Ask for it. Yearly raises? You deserve that shit, ask for it! Overworked and burnt out? Ask for personal time. You won't belive how generous people can be if they know you want something.
A long long time ago, in a Massively-Multiplayer Online world, I was in this big guild. A guild is dozens, to hundreds of people that work together to beat the hardest content in a video game. In many ways, it is like a company.
I believed I was one of the best players in the guild. Unknown to me at the time, my peers thought the same. I wanted desperately to have a leadership role. This is likely due to my overflowing 20 year old ego. In all my wisdom, I spoke constantly about how I did not want responsibility. I didn't ask for it, but that wasn’t because I didn’t want it. It was because I was afraid of being rejected. I was protecting my fragile ego. I did not have a leadership role, because I didn’t want it! It had absolutely nothing to do with my qualifications!
All my best friends were leaders in the guild. I spent hours on end with them, and I was not in a leadership position. I loved these people, we had a close bond. Eventually though, I began to resent them for not making me a leader. WHY?!? I was telling people I didn’t want it, but I did! After months of resentment I had enough. As tears of frustration wound down my cheeks I decided it was time.
I went to my closest friend and asked “Why haven’t you guys promoted me into a leadership position? I’m hurt… am I not good enough? Do you guys not like me? What is it? I work so hard and do so much. I don’t get it.”
Before he even deigned to answer me, I was promoted.
He said, “You didn’t want it. We were waiting for you to step up. But we didn’t want to push you into something you don’t want.”
Internally, I was torn up about this for months beforehand. The interaction took a whopping 15 seconds. I spent months of my life in misery, wishing I could lead, and for what? Now, I had been actively sabotaging myself, that’s true. However, this is just an extreme case. Often, people don’t realize you want something. Trying to subtly hint rarely ever works. Why? Because it is, by definition, subtle! Subtle, nuanced, vague, and understated. These are not adjectives I want when asking for a promotion. I’d take crude, unrefined, or even coarse over those any day.
The fact of the matter is, sometimes people just aren’t thinking about you. You think about yourself constantly. It’s so obvious to you, so you assume it’s obvious to everyone. It isn’t. Bob and Sarah over in cubicles 4 and 5 aren’t worried about your car payment. They don’t care about the mortgage you can’t afford and shouldn’t have agreed to. They just don’t. Are you worried about how Sarah has 26 gym memberships that she keeps forgetting to cancel? No, you aren’t… so get over yourself.
You have to put your needs and desires out there. You need to make them clear, concise, and tangible. If you don’t, no one else will. Sure you might get lucky. You might hit the lottery too. But you shouldn’t be planning your future around it. So the next time you want something, just ask. You might be surprised.