Last April I made a big career decision. After 12 years of working in PR as an entertainment publicist, I hung up my hat and left. But making that decision wasn’t easy. You see, being a publicist was a formative experience for me both personally and professionally. I met some of the most amazing people, worked on some of the coolest films, experienced many pinch-me worthy moments, and traveled the world. I learned to think quickly on my feet, speak confidently in public, and juggle multiple projects, all while producing massive events. Coming from a small town in Nebraska straight to tinseltown, I often heard the phrase, “Do you know how cool your job sounds?” And at times, even I was awe-struck.
But all cool events and moments aside, my heart wasn’t in it. And if I’d stayed, I’d not only be doing the company and my colleagues a disservice, I wouldn’t be living my most authentic life. Arriving to the point of knowing what I wanted (or didn’t want) was the easy part; asking for it was an entirely new ball game. For me, it took almost three months to muster up the courage to ask.
Last month I wrote this post about Facing Your Fears in the New Year and having the tough conversations. You know the kind I’m talking about, right? The ones that leave your heart fluttering, account for many sleepless nights, and usually leave you with a fully flushed face or breaking out in hives. The ones that you may decide not to have because it seems easier to just let it be. Or the ones you kind of skirt around, leaving subtle hints here and there but never really attacking the issue. Yep, those conversations.
That’s exactly how I felt in April. I was nervous — what would my boss think? I was scared — what if I’m no longer needed in the company? And I feared rejection — what if my boss says no to my proposal? Am I ready for the next step? I wrote out several different proposals for each scenario, though none of them made me happy. Then I remembered a theme that emerged from The Immersion retreat (which I’ve written about here and here). Only settle for big talk, meaning, be intentional and direct with your words and ask for what you want. Forget skirting around topics. Forget letting things be because you think it’ll be easier than addressing it. Go big.
Bingo. The proverbial lightbulb went off. From that point on, I made a promise to be direct, have the tough conversation, say what I mean, and above all, ask for what I want. Remember the No Fear shirts from the early 90’s? No joke, I visualize those every time I think about being direct and asking.
Here are a few things that help me when asking big:
1. You can still be polite. I have a friend who is notorious for getting what she wants, but she doesn’t necessarily make a lot of friends in the process. Folks, let me tell you — the nice kids always win in the end. You know that saying, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel?” It’s true. You can be direct and bold, but kind. Golden rule, right?
2. Will I be OK with a “no?” Before I even ask, I realize that there’s a chance I may get a flat out “no.” While a “no” is a tough pill to swallow, it’s also kind of refreshing to me to know that there’s growth and change with that. Maybe I need to think through the next ask a bit more. Or maybe the ol’ when-one-door-closes-another-opens is happening in that moment. If I don’t have a backup plan or a counter-offer plan, I’ve got to be ok with moving on.
3. Being direct is the biggest time saver. I’ve spent too much time in my personal and professional life skirting around a topic because I was nervous to be so direct. In the end, I left feeling even more frustrated because nothing was resolved. Being direct is being truthful, honest, and will save you so much time in the long run.
4. Will this matter later? Doesn’t everything seem super amplified in the moment? Looking back at last April, I can’t believe that I let my own happiness and future career consume so much of my life. I’ve restored faith in the notion that everything happens for a reason, but even more, I love to ask myself what this decision or ask might look like down the road. 99% of the time it won’t matter later — and asking for what I want is the smartest move at the moment.
My hope is that if you take anything away from this piece it’s that you realize being intentional and truthful is the only way to live. Asking for what you want is empowering and will only lead you to a more fulfilling life. It’s all a part of living kindly. Happy New Year.