“Ask” – simple concept, isn’t it? You want something, you ask for it. In reality though, this is one basic area that most people struggle with. Fear of rejection, avoiding confrontation, thinking it might be an imposition – oh so many reasons we give ourselves. In all my years of working as an employee and a business owner, I have realized that this – the failure to ask – is the biggest enemy to progress. You have the desire, you have the ability but you don’t get the opportunity and all because you couldn’t ask for it. What a loss wouldn’t you say?
This is why I decided to write this blog in my Career Advice series. I have faced this situation innumerable times where just getting up the nerve to ask, sometimes repeatedly, has saved my skin and my career. I hope my story and the simple tips I have to offer help you as well.
Before I offer advice, let me start off by telling you how this has worked for me in three situations at the beginning of my career.
The way I landed my first real job was a lesson I won’t forget. I was on the lookout for a job, new in Bangalore and facing the usual task of a job search. One day as I was riding in the back of a bus, I got talking with a nice young man who worked as a peon for a software company. Now he was just a peon, what would come of asking him anything, right? I asked anyway. I told him I was looking for a job and a few weeks later I was hired in his company! My first real job and all because I didn’t hesitate to ask!
Lesson Learned: Do not assume that nothing will come out of asking. The worst that could come out of it is that you have a great conversation and head your separate ways.
The next time I learnt the power of asking and persistence was when I attended an interview in a prestigious software company a few years later. It was a big deal and I knew it was the thing I needed for my career to really take off. I passed three rounds and I was ecstatic. After the final HR round, I sat there waiting to be told what next and expecting to be given the job. Instead, a man came out and said that I wasn’t selected and that I should go home. I was perplexed and disappointed. It was lunch time by then and I was awfully hungry, but I needed to know why I was rejected so I didn’t budge. I prayed about it and decided I would wait. At around 4 in the afternoon, the lady who had conducted my HR interview came out and asked me why I was waiting. I politely told her I needed to know what was wrong with my CV. She said that there was a mismatch and some sort of confusion and repeated that I should go home as I was rejected. I respectfully asked her if I could know what was wrong exactly. I don’t know what made her change her mind suddenly – I think it was my persistence – because she told me to wait and sit for the next round. Well, the story ends with an offer letter from them two weeks later. And within 6 months the company had me in Scotland, which was another milestone in my dream map.
Lesson Learned: Ask even when it seems like there is no hope. Don’t accept rejection without knowing why.
Back from Scotland, I knew my next stop needed to be the UK. Working my way up in Logica, I built up the experience and skill needed to reach out. I was offered a job in Perot, Honeywell and Mindtree. All the offers were great, but I knew what I wanted, so I asked for an on-site position in the UK. I risked the chance that the companies would think I was demanding a position abroad when they were offering me something in India. Perot thought otherwise and said I could get an onsite position in 6 months. Perot it would be. 6 months working for them in India, and I gently reminded them about the promised position. I was immediately transferred to the UK.
Lesson Learned: Know what you want and don’t hesitate to ask for it.
Now these were some lessons I learned in my career as an employee. It brought me where I am today and I am grateful. Thinking back on those moments of choice, my life could have been very different if I hadn’t opened my mouth and asked for it. I am not saying that it will always work out and you will never be rejected. I have faced rejections too. But if I had let fear of rejection still my tongue, I would have lived a life of regrets. A life wishing that I had asked.
In the next blog, I will talk about some specific things that will help you build the needed confidence to ASK. For now, I leave you with a challenge: Think of something that you really want but haven’t actually asked for. Now go ASK. Your dreams deserve a chance!