Now We Know…Just Ask for Help!

Future Anxiety Syndrome

This weekend I had the fun opportunity to be a fly on the wall at a mini-reunion of eight 40 year old women who went to college together. Many of them went on to live together in Chicago and now they  hail from Chicago, Pittburgh, Nashville, Minnesota and New York City. I was invited to join them for brunch and turn their stories of hi-jinks and high feelings into hindsight. They have shared the laughter and low-points of discovering career, love and family and how to sync it all up. While their lives have taken different twists and turns, a few things they share in common. This one just for fun…their take on turning 40:

“I like this way better than 25. There are parts of 25 I liked better but I like me better now. That’s important. You have more confidence.”

They also all related to something they called “F.A.S. or “future anxiety syndrome”.  They joked about the fact that the period right after college was fun for sure….but also came with a fair amount of fear. They were struggling with money and trying to figure out what’s next — from getting a job (at a time when the economy wasn’t booming), to changing jobs to figuring out what they wanted to “do”.  And what that means for the rest of your life.

Each of them suffered their own form of “FAS”.  One remembered having no idea how to interview.  Another recalled switching a job for a very small pay increase rather than talk to her current employers about getting a raise, and yet another spoke of being afraid to ask for help. Here is their 40:20advice: JUST ASK. In your twenties sometimes you don’t know to ask for help or are afraid to ask. The benefit of being 40 is that you’ve been on the other side of the desk. You know how much you appreciate being asked for help.

“I wish that in my 20s I understood the value of knowing that you can find someone within your company, you direct boss or whoever that is, to be your “ambassador.  Don’t be afraid to find that person and talk to them about salary and what you need to do to get a raise. Just say, “I need you to help me.” In my 20s I was afraid to ask for anything. I’m not talking about giving ultimatums, it’s about being smarter about interpersonal relationships within an organization….and that will help you the rest of your life. They want to help you. They want to help the right people…the smart people. If you have the skills you are going to get the money. How? You just ask (that person to be your ambassador). Anybody would be honored. All they want to do is help. You just can’t be afraid to ask. It’s an earnest appeal and people are a flattered by it. That person can be your mirror to give you the self-perception that sometimes you lack when you are 20.  It’s saying, “I know that I don’t know it all right now and I need help figuring out what I need to know and what I’m good at …help me.”

“Then it’s up to you to prove your worth. If you are good at what you do and you put that first and come in and work hard to help the cause and build some examples… then it makes it a whole lot easier to have a conversation. Have something to stand on. Go ask for it but do your homework. Think about what you have done, why you think you deserve a raise. And  know what other people make.”

I love it when a young person comes to me and is proactive about being reviewed because even if it’s not possible yet you can have a frank conversation about what they need to do. You can be constructive. What do you have to lose? Nothing.  If anything, if it doesn’t go well you will learn that you need to get out of that organization if someone is not receptive to mentoring you and helping you in yourr career and being helpful and insightful then it is time to start looking for another job.”

“I went to this corporate training session recently and there was some great insight on feedback:  People don’t give feedback enough – to their co-workers to their clients. Everyone is nervous about receiving feedback. There is anxiety and angst.  But feedback is a gift. There is so much you can do with it. It might not feel good hearing it …but it will help you immensely. Feedback is always a gift because then you know. You don’t have to wonder. You know. So back to the advice we are all giving: find a mentor or someone who can give you honest feedback.

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