Do you feel like you’re being passed up for jobs, or that your co-workers keep getting amazing professional development opportunities while you’re stuck in a rut? It might be time to change your approach from “wait for them to notice me” to “I’m going to make this happen.”
Here are a few ways to take initiative and ask for what you want in a manner that is both tactful and confident.
Getting over the awkwardness and promoting yourself
If you’re not used to explicitly asking for work, it can feel awkward at first, but it’s a necessary skill. Being able to successfully position yourself as the right person for a job or development opportunity is what could set you apart from others. The key is to address what you bring to the table as it relates to that specific role.
- Whether you’re crafting a cover letter or applying for a grant, always tailor your pitch to the needs of the potential opportunity. If you do your research, the person reading the application will be able to see that you’re excited about working with them. This also makes it feel less like you’re bragging and more like you’re explaining your worth and how you could be a good fit.
- It’s important to be able to articulate your strengths, but you’ll also want to be sure to be authentic in your conversations. While some people advocate for 30-second “elevator pitches,” a rehearsed script is not necessarily going to resonate with everyone. Focus on communicating exactly what you are passionate about.
- Don’t be shy about detailing your accomplishments on your LinkedIn profile or your professional website. Do some research and check out what others are sharing on their sites and consider whether your bio could use some sprucing up.
Asking for introductions
Requesting a connection can seem like a daunting task for some of us. You may worry that it can come across as an imposition. But building relationships and networking is nothing to be hesitant about, and the fact is that it’s how most people find jobs. It’s estimated that up to 80% of jobs are filled through personal connections. So how can you politely and professionally request an introduction?
- If there’s a specific person to whom you want to be introduced, make sure that your contact is actually someone that knows them well enough (a 3rd-degree connection on LinkedIn doesn’t count!). If you are just asking for general ideas of whom to speak with in the field, be sure to explain what exactly you are hoping to gain from the introductions.
- If it has been a while since you last spoke to your contact, you need to catch them up on what you’ve been doing and let them know why you want the introduction. Something like, “Since we last saw each other I’ve decided to make a move from program management into fundraising. I thought you may know some good people to talk to for guidance.”
- In the current COVID-19 landscape, you may actually notice more colleagues and contacts reaching out on social media. Now more than ever, remote networking is being relied upon for introductions. As you get more comfortable approaching “friends of friends,” keep in mind that networking is not meant to be one-sided; you should be willing to do the same for your contacts as well.
Speaking up in your current role
Sometimes you need to demonstrate your worth within your current organization rather than waiting for promotions or professional development.
- Instead of waiting for an annual review, schedule time to speak with your manager about projects you would like to be a part of, or promotions that you feel you are qualified for. Be ready with examples of your successes in your current role, and specify where you see yourself ideally in the organization.
- If you’re on a remote team, it can be hard to get that one-on-one attention from your boss to discuss career moves and growth. And in some cases, they might not even have a great idea of all that you’ve been working on. If that’s the case, realize that it’s really on you to identify opportunities, document what you’ve worked on that’s relevant and transferable, and request a time for a video call with your manager.
- If you’re temping or volunteering at an organization with which you’d like to work full time, ask (or find the right person to ask) about available or potential future openings. Being proactive and taking initiative will impress upon them how serious you are.
Once you get some practice, expanding your network and pitching yourself for opportunities will feel less awkward and more empowering.
Have you had success finding work through pitching yourself? Share your tips on Facebook!
Lakshmi Hutchinson is a freelance writer with experience in the nonprofit, education, and HR fields. She is particularly interested in issues of educational and workplace equity, and in empowering women to reach their professional goals. She lives in Glendale, California with her husband, twin girls, and tuxedo cat.