One of the most necessary truths I've learned about the working world has also been one of the hardest to swallow

You have to ask for what you want.

It’s terrible, I know. You could have yelled this at my childhood self every day for a year and I still wouldn’t have done it.

What if they say no? What if you don’t get it? What if they hate you forever because you tried to sub a salad for fries?!

That’s ridiculous (10-year-old self!). In the six years I’ve spent in the working world post-college, I’ve realised that you have to speak up. If you don’t ask, there is almost no chance at all that you’ll get whatever it is you want.

This lesson was driven home to me a few years back while I was reading “I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This,” by former Cosmo Editor-in-Chief Kate White, in preparation for an interview. The example is work-related, but it’s broadly applicable.

I told my colleague Jacquelyn Smith about it when she was compiling a list of life-changing business books:

“White recounts a time she was hiring to fill a position on her team. After she filled it, she heard through the grapevine that one of the existing editors was upset she hadn’t been considered for the job. Kate wondered: ‘How was I supposed to know she wanted it? She never told me.'”

Hearing that genuine, confused perspective had a huge effect on me, someone who has never, ever liked to ask for anything. Just keeping your head down and working hard isn’t enough — if you want something at work, you have to ask for it. Otherwise, how will your boss, who might be well-meaning but definitely isn’t psychic, ever know?

The same goes for pretty much anything else, at work and beyond. How will that company know you’re dying to work for them? How will your friend know you want company this weekend? How will the restaurant server know you’re off fried foods for the week?

Assuming other people can anticipate your needs or wants is setting yourself up to fail. You have to ask for what you want.

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