You don’t get what you don’t ask for.
There’s a story I like to tell about a young creative person I hired some years back at an agency I was the creative boss of.
She had sent me a promo piece to get my attention; it was an orange traffic cone with a note attached. It certainly got my attention when the receptionist placed it in the middle of my desk.
I have always had a policy of looking at everything sent to me by creative people, no matter how time consuming that is. There’s two reasons for that (1) It’s arrogant not to, we all started out at some stage as a newbie needing to get our work in front of people; and (2) You never know who you may discover and it is your job as the creative leader of an agency to bring in the best talent.
So I checked out her folio online and I liked what I saw, I sent her an email and asked her to come in for a chat.
She was fresh out of college and I had an entry-level position open in my creative department. Here timing was perfect.
We had our meeting and I was sold but I wanted to know what my Head Of Art thought, so I had her sit down with him. He was sold as well.
Congratulations, you have a job.
This is where it all got funny, not funny in a weird way but funny in an — ‘I can’t stop smiling and laughing’ kind of way.
After she received her letter from our HR department she called me and asked if there was any way the salary could be bumped up a little. I did have some wiggle room with my budgets and she was not asking for much more, so I agreed.
Not long after I get another call and request, she was wondering if I could give her a different title, the entry-level title wasn’t very appealing and she was looking for something one notch up. I laughed at her bravado and loved every part of it; I had no issues with the title change, as she would still be doing the entry-level position anyway, so I had HR change that as well.
So along came her first day at the office, I had an agency to run and my usual bunch of meetings to attend so after a quick catch up I left her with HR and my Head of Art.
Within an hour or so there was a polite and quiet knock on my office door, it was my new hire, I assumed she was coming to say ‘thank you’ again, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
There was an empty desk over by one of the windows; these desks were generally reserved for more senior staff, whereas her desk was in the middle of the office. She asked if she could move.
I thought to myself — ‘Oh, she’s good, she’ll have my job within three months’ and this made me realize I had made the right decision. Always hire smart and always hire people that can make you smile in some way or another be that from the great work they produce, their personality or their attitude.
So, you guessed it, I allowed her to move to the window desk.
But she wasn’t finished yet, no, just when you thought she had asked for all she could she was back at my office door faster that a yo-yo in the hands of a professional.
Her next request was for a new computer, she felt the current one she was given was just a little old.
It was time, I had to put a stop to it, but I was laughing when I did it, not at her though, laughing because I was loving every minute of this. If I didn’t end this now I would be approving a new BMW for her by Friday and 25 weeks vacation time by the following week.
I told her that the computer she had was good enough and that she would have to make do for now.
To which she responded — “Okay, no problem; just thought I’d ask”.
There’s a valuable lesson here. You need to ask. If you stay silent nobody will ever know what it is you want. Unless they can read minds, and if that’s the case be very careful what you start thinking.
When you stand in line at a coffee shop you ask for what you want.
When you sit down at a restaurant you ask for what you want.
When you go into a clothing store and you’re looking for a particular item you ask for what you want.
So, when it comes to your career and other aspects of your life you should always ask for what you want. It’s that simple.
Don’t be a career wallflower.
I worked in sales for a period of time when I was younger and one of the most important lessons I was taught was ‘always ask for the sale’.
Ask for that promotion. Ask for that opportunity. Being silent wont get you anywhere. There are no guarantees you’ll get what you’re asking for, but at least you tried. No good boss would ever begrudge you for trying. And if they do, find a better boss.
Being told no is not going to kill you. Sure, it may put a dent in your ego for a minute or two, but that is not life threatening. You’ll survive to ask another day.
This same approach also applies if you are trying to accomplish something you may not have all the knowledge or skills for. Ask someone. Or maybe you want to start a new hobby but you’re not sure how to start. Ask someone.
We live on a planet of over 7 billion people, many of which are interconnected thanks to the Internet and social media. There is sure to be someone, somewhere with the answers you need but you’ll never know until you ask.
Words are powerful tools, use them the right way and you may just get more of what you want out of life. It’s worth a shot don’t you think?
Oh, and as for the above-mentioned person, she is someone I am still in touch with and cherish now as a friend. I’ve watched her grow from that kid that walked into the agency to now a married woman with kids of her own and she’s still working as a creative. Couldn’t be more proud of her if I tried.
That’s it for today; see you tomorrow.
P.S. If you are in New York and would like to attend a small talk I am moderating called ‘Where do ideas come from?’ on September 13 you can see the details here.
Rodd Chant is a Creative Director / Writer / Strategist and a bit more. He also teaches creativity to groups and individuals and makes a mean Thai red curry, or so he says. He also has a penchant for talking in the third person. You can read more of his LinkedIn musings here. You can also find him on Twitter and on Instagram. Or drop him an email — firstname.lastname@example.org