A certain psychology professor is taking quite a bit of heat right now for his research and publications on the gender pay gap, and women in the workplace. I can understand how his words have stirred up quite a bit of anger. I’m not going to even attempt to assess or break down his hypothesis, nor give my opinion on them. What I will say is this: listening to him speak—whether I liked what he said or not—sent me into a bout of self-reflection. I started to think about where I am in my career, where I want to be, and what steps would bridge the gap between the former and the latter. It quickly becomes clear to me that the only thing standing in my way is me. There are things I want, and specific people who I know can give me those things, but I don’t ask for them. If you’re like me then, you might be a head case about self-promotion and pursuing opportunities. If you’re like me then being extremely assertive and even taking something that somebody else might want can feel unnatural. But perhaps I should resist that tendency. Here are ways to stop being such a head case about self-promotion.
Being demure doesn’t get rewarded
Nobody is going to give you an opportunity because you were demure. People in power do not sit around and think, “Hmm. Who hasn’t bothered me or asked for something? I’ll reward their quietness.” It doesn’t work that way in the professional world. So while it’s true that maybe those who ask for things are a bit annoying, the people of whom they ask things don’t even think to appreciate the fact that you aren’t annoying. They’re too busy dealing with the squeaky wheel in front of them.
Being agreeable doesn’t get results
Being agreeable rarely gets results in work. Nobody thinks “Let’s give this opportunity or job to her—she gets along with everyone.” Unless the specific useful skill required is “gets along with everyone,” the odds are that your ability to get along with everyone will play a very small role in whether or not you get the opportunity. So stop worrying so much about being agreeable and just get what’s yours.
Men want, and then they ask
Do you think that when a man wants a job/promotion/opportunity/raise that he starts to lists off to himself all of the reasons he might not be worthy? Probably not, huh? In fact, if you are in a position to give out opportunities, stop and think about it: it’s probably mostly men who ask you for those opportunities.
You don’t need colleagues to like you
If you’re worried about asserting yourself because you don’t want it to make your colleagues dislike you, just let that go. You don’t need them to like you. They’re not your friends. They don’t have to be your enemies, of course, but are they your close friends? Do things need to be all warm and fuzzy with them? Nope.
Especially if you aren’t friends
Really though, do you hang out with these people outside of work? Not just at the monthly work happy hour but on a regular basis? Do you have them to your home? Are they your tight knit buddies? Nope. So why do you value putting forward to them only the traits (being agreeable, being patient, being generous) that you put forward to your friends? Your colleagues and bosses aren’t your friends and they respond to a totally different set of traits.
You can be a lion at work, and a lamb at home
I personally worry that if I start to be assertive at work that I’ll start to be bossy at home. Obviously, you don’t really want to be as demanding and self-promoting in your personal relationships you are in your professional ones. There should be more room to be gentle in your personal life. But if you’re an emotionally intelligent person, then you’ll just turn off that lion-esque vibe when you get home and be a lamb with your family and loved ones.
If you’re worthy, then you’re doing them a favor
If you know that you’re the best person for the job then, aren’t you just doing this person a favor by convincing them to give you the job?
Someone less worthy will ask
If you don’t ask, someone less worthy will. If you care about that position or that company and want the best things to happen for it, then don’t let it slip away to someone less capable, just because that person asked for it.
Anyone who got anywhere self-promoted
I can promise you that anyone who got anywhere high up in their careers did so by asking. Nobody got high, high up by sitting around and hoping somebody noticed them.
So those in power respect self-promotion
Since anybody in a position of power got there by self-promoting, then they will respect and admire that you self-promote. To criticize someone for doing the exact same things they once did would be hypocritical and nearsighted.
You can self-promote and help others
Another concern you may have is that by self-promoting you’re inherently selfish. But don’t forget that, if you get into a position of power, then you can help people from there. And you don’t have to put others down while you self-promote.
Everyone self-promotes. If you don’t, you’ll disappear
Look, everyone is doing it—everyone is asking for opportunities. And out of that big group of people, only a tiny percent of them is even getting a “Yes.” If even those asking aren’t always getting what they want, then you really don’t stand a chance of getting what you want if you won’t even ask.
Those who dislike it don’t care about you
If anyone criticizes you and scorns you for asking for an opportunity, here’s the thing: that person was never going to help you anyways. So don’t worry about upsetting them. That was never a resource for you, either way.
Asking the question won’t change the answer
The truth is that it’s very hard to change someone’s mind. What I mean is that, the answer already exists long before you ask the question. If it’s a yes, it was a yes before you asked. If it’s a no, it was a no before you asked. Asking someone for an opportunity won’t make them go from wanting to say yes to wanting to say no.
Someone wants to be reminded of you
Right now, someone somewhere wants you to throw your hat in the ring. Someone out there wants to give an opportunity to a hard working and intelligent woman. You just aren’t coming to mind for them right now but when you remind that person you’re there, they’ll be so happy you did.