So hi I was just wondering if uh maybe I could I mean we could go to uh lunch to like you know uh talk about I mean maybe discuss like uh, me. Uh if you have a minute free but I'm sure you don't really so never mind uh ... sorry.
You want to try something new at work -- you want more responsibility. Say you have been working there for a couple of years and you think it's time for a raise. Or you think you're not getting credit for work that is yours and you want it to be known.
But, frankly, you're scared.
When you're relatively new to the workplace -- especially to a workplace full of people older and more experienced than you -- how do you get over the intimidation and stop being a wimp? How do you face the boss without feeling like you're that little twentysomething, sitting in a big person's chair, feet dangling above the floor?
When you're at a restaurant and you don't like the meal you've been served, you ask for the waiter to return it, right? Or if you buy something that doesn't fit and you want to try on something else, you take it back to the store and ask the salesperson for another size.
But then there is work. You don't want your boss to think you're ungrateful, or pushy, or demanding, or whiny ...
Hold on, wait, don't just run in there. You have to prepare yourself before you ask for a raise or added responsibility.
Get informed. Save yourself the embarrassment of asking for more money when the papers just announced that your company has filed for Chapter 11. Don't ask for added responsibility until you know your supervisors like the work you do now.
And make sure you know what you're asking for.
Lynne Waymon, president of Waymon & Associates -- a consulting group in Silver Spring that advises people in government and the private sector on how to "fireproof" their careers and make the most of networking -- said doing your homework before approaching the higher-ups is imperative.
"Figure out how your interests mesh with the interest of the organization," she said. "You have to bring more value than you cost."
Look at how you bring more benefit to the company, even if you are young and green, she said.
Get out and talk to people, Waymon said. Find out what they think of you asking for more responsibility. Do they think your boss would go for it? Can the company handle it? Are they looking for something like that right now? What do your co-workers think of your new idea? No one learns about the world from sitting inside a cubicle all day, Waymon said.
Before you meet with your boss to discuss what you want, do a dress rehearsal with a friend, Waymon suggests. Practice what you want to say to your boss, and get the person's feedback to see if you sound whiny, powerful, confident, wimpy.
Then make a specific appointment -- don't just drop in on a boss and chance catching him or her at a bad time, she said, unless there is a stated open-door policy.
And when you meet resistance, don't freak out. Ask the boss how the two of you could make it work, or suggest just trying your idea for a period, Waymon suggests. "Expect resistance."
That way, you can be ready with answers to your boss's doubts.
"Anticipate the five problems or questions they will have, and strategize about the answers," she said.
The biggest problem twentysomethings face, says Ed Brodow, author of "Negotiate With Confidence" and a negotiation consultant to companies such as Sun Microsystems, Arthur Andersen and Microsoft, is that they "give their power away."
"When we go in to negotiate for a raise or a new job, we tend to take the defensive position," he said. "We assume that the other person is more powerful than we are and they have control over our life."
It's not true, Brodow said. "Concentrate on how we have power in the situation ... they need us. We represent a value to the employer," he said. Don't forget that you're necessary when you go to face the boss.
"Be proactive and not apologetic," he suggests. Ask how your manager thinks you are doing. Get the feedback that you've done a good job. "Then say, `Well, I expect to be taken care of.'"
Well, in so many words.
Also, he said, always be willing to walk away from a negotiation. "Never negotiate without options. If this company doesn't value you enough to give you a raise, you have to [have it] in your mind to say, `I'm going to have to go somewhere else,'" he said. "But don't threaten to do it. Just have that attitude. If you have that attitude, no one can intimidate you" because you know walking in that your life isn't over if the answer is no.
Older, Wiser and Frightening
If you're a 24-year-old, intimidated by those 40-year-olds in the office, feeling a little teeny and childish next to them, use it, says Brodow.
"Acknowledge that you're younger and ask them for help," he said. Easy as that.
Point out to them that you're not the seasoned pro that they are. Tell them that you respect them and that you count on them to help you out, he said. They didn't get to where they are by avoiding contact with more experienced folks.
"Connect with somebody in the firm who is more established, and thereby more senior," says Jack McLean, senior vice president with Manchester Inc., a management consulting firm in the District. "It doesn't have to be a mentor. Just find someone who when they walk into a room, people care."
McLean described a well-respected woman who took him into board meetings when he was starting out and let him present his ideas. "It would give you immediate credibility, instead of hearing the stupid office political stuff, like, `He's too young.'"
Meanwhile, McLean said, don't try to jump into a job that you weren't chosen for. Go to those board meetings, but don't forget why you were hired. The better you do at your real job, the more chance you have to express your ideas to the decision-makers.
"People are evaluated on what they are hired to do," he said. "If you try to position yourself to move up but aren't doing what you were hired to do, more times than not it will backfire."
People who shun the jobs they were hired for and spend most of their time schmoozing, McLean said, will get nowhere. "There's no substitute for established credibility," he said.
If you have questions about getting ahead, you can e-mail Amy Joyce at email@example.com