If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get

I’m a big fan of ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get’. (Dogs and cats are masters at this, constantly using their cute faces and big eyes to request their next treat.) Or put another way, I’m a big fan of applying the question, ‘What have I got to lose?’ to any given situation and, if the answer is, ‘Much less than I have to gain’ I figure I may as well speak up.

It’s something I’d recommend to anyone who’s gone to the effort of defining their personal brand, to ensure they get payback for the time put in. Because not only is personal branding about knowing what you offer + who is offering it, it’s also very much about realising (in both meanings of the word) the value that brings.

The mistake we make

What prompted this post was reading an interview with BBC presenter Emily Maitlis in The Times, which stated: Despite spending eight years as understudy to Paxman on Newsnight, she was passed over for the lead anchor job when it was given to Evan Davis in 2014. “It’s so easy to go through life thinking, ‘I’ve done a really good job; they’ll recognise that I have risen to those challenges,’ and to sit tight and wait. But life doesn’t go like that. You work really hard, and then some bloke asks for the job you really want and gets it.”

And there’s the nub of it: Evan Davis asked for the job and got it. Emily Maitlis didn’t ask and didn’t get it.

If you’re of the same mindset, that hard-work alone is what gets you noticed and rewarded, then I’d strongly urge you to change – or at least re-evaluate – that mindset. I certainly did.

My wake-up call

A decade or so into my career I was headhunted for a job. I was offered a new challenge, a step up in the hierarchy and, best of all, a couple of thousand pounds more than I was currently earning. I was flattered and took the offer without question.

A short while later, another person joined the business in a similar job, at the same level as me, and accidentally let slip their salary – which was five thousand pounds more than mine.

I was pretty miffed (that’s the polite way of putting it) and went to see the person who hired me. With more than a hint of indignation I said, “Why didn’t you offer me the same salary?”

“Because you didn’t ask,” was the reply.

And they were 100 percent, totally, entirely, absolutely right. Just like Emily Maitlis, I hadn’t asked, so I hadn’t got. And I swore to myself then and there I’d never let that happen again.

It ain’t a mistake if you learn from it

Fast-forward to another career step, where a job offer was on the table, but we still had the rate of pay to negotiate. I stated the salary I wanted and the person opposite looked surprised, saying, “That’s more than I was expecting to pay.” To which I replied, “Well, that’s because I’m worth it.”

I knew what my personal brand was and the value it offered, making it easier to sell that value to someone else. (Though don’t think it was entirely easy – I still had to steel myself to say it.)

He said no more and simply extended his hand to shake on the deal.

Now it’s your turn to learn

When you understand your personal brand, you understand you have just as much to offer as the next person – it’s just a different offer, in a different package. And when you understand that, you understand it’s up to you to realise (again, in both meanings of the word) that value by asking for – and getting – what you want.

Are you a fan of ‘don’t ask, don’t get’? And if so, what’s it got you? Or have you also kicked yourself after keeping quiet and missing out? You know me…I’d love to hear your stories and there’s a comment box below just waiting for them!

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6 responses to “If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get”

  1. Nicola Ralston says:

    I think this is a more complex topic than you are suggesting. When I had a senior management job, my objective was never to give in to the people who asked at the expense of those who didn’t. Why would I say yes to someone who was less competent simply because they asked? Interesting
    question as to whether a system where promotions have to be applied for is any fairer than where they are simply awarded by the boss(es). I’m guessing not, but interested in other’s views.

    • Jennifer Holloway says:

      I agree Nicola – it’s more complex. I’m coming at it from a top-line view, which is NOT if you do ask, you do get. (If you’re not worth whatever you’re asking for – be it a favour, a promotion, money – you don’t deserve it just because you asked, which is what you’ve put.) But if you leave it entirely to others to recognise your value, you may not get what you deserve. Ultimately though, it’s still the giver’s decision.

  2. Tony O says:

    I think the crucial point is to know your value. Not to believe or hope, but to know. I once witnessed when it went badly wrong for a contractor who interrupted a meeting I was having with my boss. He stated what he thought he was worth and that he was getting offers from other companies to join them. My boss surprisingly agreed with him, and said “yes, you are absolutely right”, but then went on and said “but unfortunately, we can’t afford that so you can clear your desk and we won’t expect to see you after today”. Within seconds the contractor had gone from taking a punt at getting a payrise to being out of a job. When he had left the room, my boss simply turned to me and said that he would not be dictated to by a contractor (it was a bit more emphatic than that. Mainly though, I was annoyed at him interrupting a 1:1 meeting. Secondary lesson- know what your alternative to an agreement is before you start.

    • Jennifer Holloway says:

      That’s what I was hoping to get across – knowing your personal brand is about knowing your value and helping others to know that. However, it’s all got to be in line with what you actually have to offer, not chancing one’s arm, as this guy did.

  3. Joanna Polak-Goodman says:

    Great article! Completely agree Jennifer – working hard and waiting to be noticed does not guarantee career success. I also leant this lesson the hard way – and it was only after being passed over for a perfect job opportunity and when I expressed why I was a perfect fit for that role, that other great opportunities opened up for me.
    Many of my clients are talented and over-qualified for their roles. Understanding your brand and learning how to get noticed and how to articulate your value is a skill in itself. Personal branding and learning how to express it is an investment with a difference – it is guaranteed to pay out over your career, and for my clients this is happening. Now.

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