<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1901736309897431&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

How to Ask for What You Want

“Speak up and ask for what you want. You won't necessarily just be noticed and rewarded.”

Whether it's a promotion, that hot assignment, or just an occasional pat on the back, many of us have things we want. And if we want it bad enough, we need to make the desire crystal clear by asking for 'it' - whatever 'it' is. Perhaps obvious, at least while reading it on the page, but real life doesn't always flow so easily, and asking isn't always comfortable.

Patty Rowell, Amazon Web Services' Head of Employer Global Brand joined Smart, Savvy + Associates’ event Seattle in late spring, and we—along with a few dozen Seattle-area marketing professional—benefited from her wisdom thanks to her openness in sharing career hindsight aka “If I knew then, what I know now.”

With just five minutes on stage, Patty captured our attention and spoke some truths that gave us some great a-ha moments about knowing what you want and in her words, when you want something: "Sing out Louise!" Being smart (and savvy), we knew there was some more to her story, so we dug deeper and had a Q&A with Patty about her full thoughts on her advice: “Speak up and ask for what you want.”

Q&A with Patty Rowell, Amazon Web Services’ Head of Employer Global Brand

SSA:  In your “If I knew then, what I know now” talk, you talked about the importance of asking for what we want, and the fact that we won’t necessarily just be noticed and rewarded. To clarify the “what”—what’s fair game to ask for in our employment circumstances—projects, jobs, salary, office, perks, etc.?

PR:  If it's important to you, it's worth asking for it. However, if you want to be taken seriously, be prepared to back it up with a good reason—for instance, why it makes sense for the company, what’s in it for them. You have to put some skin in the game.


SSA:  What is the confidence factor in speaking up? Age, job title, personality, or something else?

PR:  In my experience, speaking up itself gives you confidence. Age or title shouldn’t be part of the equation; it’s about believing in yourself and your own capabilities.


SSA:  In asking for what you want, what’s the best way to speak up? Focus on what you want, or flip the request to stress how much the company will benefit?

PR:  It depends on your relationship with your manager, but it’s best to be transparent about the outcome you want. Frame the request to highlight the business need you’re addressing.


“If it’s important to you, it’s worth asking for…it’s about believing in yourself and your own capabilities.” – Patty Rowell


SSA:  Are there better times than others to ask for what you want?

PR:  Pay attention to what’s going on within your organization; times of great change are also times of great opportunity.


SSA:  Why do you believe people often don’t speak up when there’s something they really want for their career?

PR:  I think we all want to believe that our good work will speak for itself, and we will be rewarded accordingly. That's a fairy tale. If you don't promote your own work, you may as well not have done it at all. You have to step out of your comfort zone and take control.


SSA:  Was there a specific time when you didn’t speak up, and ended up missing out on something big/significant?

PR:  Absolutely! I have fallen in the trap of “my work will get noticed” and watched plum assignments go to other deserving colleagues. One lesson I’ve learned is that you can’t assume your manager is socializing your work across your organization; you need to do that yourself.


SSA:  What should we do if someone says no? Or worse, says “never?”

PR:  I've been told no—and never—and it absolutely stings! But I figure, better to know that it's off the table than to waste time wondering and wishing. Even a “no” puts the power back in your hands—you get to decide what you’re going to do about it. Do you agree with the reasons behind the no? Are you going to regroup and ask again? Accept it and move on? It's up to you.


Do you need some solid self-talk to speak up and ask for what you want? Or are your goals less that clear and you need some support in determining the next steps on your career journey? Consider a coaching program, which helps focus effort and manage energy to achieve the results you want. It’s proven to be the most effective way to bridge the gap between goals and reality. Check out Smart Savvy Academy's Coaching packages and make this the year you meet your goals head on!


Smart, Savvy + Associates are experts in helping marketing and communications leaders find people and develop teams that thrive and deliver inspiring results. As a people performance company, we specialize in finding marketing and communications talent in the Pacific North West. We also offer training programs for leaders and teams as well as options to become a certified coach or get coached.


Build teams that thrive. Subscribe to our HotSheet today.