How to Get What You Want at Work (in 5 Steps)

how to get what you want at work

You’ve been told to find a career you love and to do work that makes you happy. But what are you supposed to do if you have a job shy of all the things you want and need? Luckily, you’re always in control of your career — even when it doesn’t feel like you are.

I’ve been there. I understand how scary and frustrating it is to want something different from your job and know that the only way to get it is to speak up. I took a job as an editor after college, but all I’ve ever really wanted to do is just write. So I asked my boss to let me write full-time instead. If I can make this happen in my life, you can do the same in yours. You can absolutely get what you want from your job. Whether that be a raise, more time off, or the ability to work remotely, you can get it. Here’s how.

Step 1: Define What You Want

You can’t get what you want if you don’t know what you want. Before you can have a list of requests or formulate a plan for reaching what you want to reach, you have to define exactly what you want, why you want it, and why you deserve it. Take some time to think about what you truly want and what you truly need. It’s more important to work toward the things you need, be that a flex schedule, working from home, or a raise, and figure out if they’re things you can actually receive from your job.

For example, not all jobs can provide you with a flex schedule. It’s not feasible for every field. If you’re in that kind of situation, you need to consider if what you want is worth finding a new job over or if you should give up on it.

Step 2: Mentally Prepare Yourself

The key to getting what you want out of your job is making a plan for how you’re going to make that happen. What will it take to make your wish a reality? If you want a flex schedule, then you’ll need to ask your superior to accommodate that. Unless what you want is something you’re personally responsible for, like happiness or the ability to be more creative, you’ll need to ask for it.

Asking your boss for things is scary. It’s normal to be nervous and uncomfortable going to your boss to request a change in your work life, but it’s something you have to learn to do. You can’t go through your entire career without once asking for something you deserve from your work. Accept the fact that it’s scary, but also realize that the worst thing that can happen is being told no. You can survive a “no.” However, you will regret not at least trying to fight for what you want, and you’ll never get anything unless you ask for it.

Step 3: Make a Game Plan

Now that you’ve accepted you can’t avoid asking, you can really formulate a plan. You’ll feel better having a set argument for your boss. Be ready to defend what you want and have specific, detailed reasons it should be granted. When speaking to your boss, be prepared to answer these questions:

  • Why do you want X?
  • How will X make you a better employee?
  • How will X benefit the company in the long run?

Keep in mind the company is the most important thing to your boss. Even though happy employees are important, it’s more important that everything benefits the company. Using our example of a flex schedule again, you could say that type of schedule would make you a better employee because you could be productive during the times you’re most energized and less distracted.

Think from your boss’s point of view when preparing your argument. What counter-argument can you expect from them? Prepare yourself for a rebuttal and for a little resistance, particularly if you’re asking for something no one else has done. You also need to choose a time that’s best for your boss. You don’t want to drop by their office unannounced at an inconvenient time.

Schedule an official meeting on a day when your boss is typically least busy. The day your boss comes back from vacation is not the right time. Remember, you have to play to your audience if you want a positive outcome.

Step 4: Practice, Practice, Practice

You’ll feel silly rehearsing the conversation in your bathroom mirror, but there’s a lot to be said for doing trial runs before the big moment. Test out the conversation with your reflection, or even in your car while you’re stuck in rush hour traffic, so you can hear your answers and argument out loud.

This also allows you test out different conversation directions. Your boss might say yes immediately, they might ask for you to elaborate more, or you might get a harsh refusal. Rehearse each of these options and how you’ll respond. Be fully prepared to elaborate on why you’re asking for what you want, how it will make a happier, more efficient employee, and how it will be good for the company.

Also be prepared to respond to a “no” by asking for your boss to explain. You need to know if you’re being declined because of your work performance or because of another reason that has nothing to do with you. And if you are declined, ask if there’s a chance of the answer changing in the future.

Step 5: Ask Your Boss

After thinking, preparing, and practicing, you’re ready to speak with your boss. Go in confident, and remember they’re just a person. Your boss might be in a position of power, but at the end of the day they’re a human being too. Keep an open mind to what your boss says to you, but also remember you that you have every right to request the kind of career you can be happy in.

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