Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Best Career Advice I've Ever Gotten: ASK!

Yesterday, I experienced a corporate miracle. Priceline.com issued me a refund, going against their strict policy. I was so happy by this experience I started reflecting on the power of asking and who gave me this profound career growth advice. I realized quickly that I know exactly who I learned this message from: I learned the power to ASK from one of my first mentors.

So here's my tale. I'd been working as a consultant at a major media organization in Los Angeles and pursuing my doctoral studies throughout the 90’s. I was happy as could be; bringing in $50/hour teaching classes like Supervision 101 and Assertive Communication. I was happy as could be, that is, until the day I found out that all of my co-workers were making $100/hour! Just like that I went from being engaged and delighted with my work to pissed off and bitter. I could not understand why my client (who was also my mentor at the time) was not compensating me as well as the others! I looked at the obvious reasons first: Were they better at the job than I was? Nope, my teaching evaluations were very high and competitive with the rest of them. Was it because I was younger or doing lower level work? Nope, we were all about the same age and teaching very comparable courses. I fussed and whined to friends and family members, until I finally mustered the courage to go in and speak to my mentor/client about it. First off, I told her that I had found out that the other trainers were making $100/hour. She confirmed this was true. I asked her if my work was not as good as theirs and she said, absolutely not; my work was just as good as theirs. So then I said, “Well why am I not making as much as the rest of them?” And she replied, “Because you never asked.” She explained that she had her manager hat on when making compensation decisions and that when I was initially hired I had asked for $50/hour which she had given to me and I'd been producing and happy. Then, I said, “I am asking now- I want to make $100/hour. Will you start paying me $100 an hour?” She said, “Of course!” I remember asking her why didn’t she offer me $100/hour right out of the gate and she said, “No one will ever just give you what you want in life – you have to know what your worth and what you want and go ask for it. This is of the best success strategies I ever learned. To this day, this mentor is one of my closest friends and influences and I am profoundly grateful for that advice.

So- back to Priceline and what happened yesterday. Unfortunately, I have a colleague in the Organizational Behavior industry experiencing a medical emergency right now rendering her unable to travel this week. If you look at the Priceline web site and read the fare restrictions it is pretty clear that there are no changes anyway, anyhow, so sorry too bad! When I gathered the courage to finally call them, the wait was daunting and the music they play while you're on hold repeats reiterates their 'no returns' policy. When I finally got a human being on the phone, I started with “Look I understand your policy and it makes sense, but will you listen to my story and consider making an exception.” Surprisingly, they did so and the folks on the other end of the phone abandoned their script and acted like kind humans. They made an exception and my friend got a large chunk of their money back. If I hadn't asked, that would have never occurred.

Thanks to my early mentor I remembered: You must ask to get what you want. A few tips I have learned: a) You must ask nicely, b) You must be prepared for a No and at a certain point walk away and come up with a Plan B, c) You must give the person you are asking solutions and choices and be clear about what you want.

So- what lessons or career advice have you learned from mentors? When did you ask and get what you wanted? What will you ask for today?

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