Friday, May 28, 2010

My Best Career Advice: Don't Wait... Ask!

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I seem to be in a bit of a retrospective mode this week. That, and I've happened to have some very interesting conversations lately with some very interesting people.

On Wed., I posted thoughts shared by Scott Kier about Google's energy ambitions. Yesterday, it was a response to a request I received about corporate blog best practices.

Today, I'd like to share an introspective chat I had earlier this week with a former colleague of mine from Resolution Media, Josh Dreller, who's gone on to build quite a name for himself and his current agency, Fuor Digital, in the digital marketing space.

We got to talking about what it takes to succeed in this industry. Sure things like smarts, connections, and passion came up. But we landed on one very simple tenant that really separates the wheat from the chaff. And, looking at some of the most successful folks I know in this industry (and others, for that matter), I find this to be something they all exemplify...

Don't wait for anything to be handed to you. Ask for it!

This adage certainly applies in the sales and business development world where "asking for the order" is Sales 101. But anyone anywhere can take this to heart and use it to propel themselves and their company to higher levels.

The bottom line is that it's rare to work for a company where anyone is really looking out for you and your best interests. Sure, there are good managers that will reward you with more money, a promotion, etc. But, at the end of the day, they've got their own asses to cover. And they'll respect you as an employee even more if you show some initiative and ask for whatever it is you want.

Now, of course, make sure your request is grounded in a) reality (read: commensurate with your contributions/skillset and the current marketplace) and b) the best interests of the company (read: more revenue and/or reduced costs) or else your "ask" will fall flat as will your chances of moving up the chain of command.

For whatever reason, I find that the vast majority of people in the marketing world are too scared, embarrassed, timid, jealous, and downright unsure of themselves to ask for what they want. And, of those that do, only a few actually take the time to consider the position of the "askee" and determine if what they are asking for is something that deserves to get green lit.

Yes, that means doing some homework. Yes, that means practicing your pitch. Yes, that means listening intently. Yes, that means understanding the motivations of the person you're asking. Yes, that means building a business case. But, most of all, that means getting off your ass and doing something about your situation.

To be sure, some folks may say that it's even better advice not to ask for permission, rather ask for forgiveness. In other words, don't wait to be told... don't even ask... just do it. Many times I'll agree with that approach but it's hard to make a sweeping statement like that and advocate for it across all situations. There are times where that can get you into serious hot water. So, as a rule of them, I'd start by asking until you get familiar enough with all the moving parts in an organization to know when it's ok to "just do it."

So, now, I ask you, what are you waiting for?


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