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Want a Big Favor? Don't Be Afraid to Ask

President Obama will speak at UC Irvine's commencement ceremony this June. How did the school score the most powerful man in the country to speak at graduation? Simple: they asked.

8-ball 

(Photo Credit: greeblie/Flickr)

"We are thrilled that the President has accepted our invitation to deliver the keynote address at our commencement exercises this June," says Chancellor Michael V. Drake in a press release, which notes that the president's speech will commemorate the 50th anniversary of President Johnson's visit to break ground on the campus, just days after unveiling his Great Society agenda.

What does this have to do with your career? In short, if you don't ask, you don't get.

Fear of Owing Something, or Looking Stupid

Our culture praises self-sufficiency, even though no one succeeds entirely on her own. Throughout our lives, we accept help from our family, friends, and community, often without thinking too much about it. It's harder, however, to ask a relative stranger to do you a solid than it is to apply for a Pell grant.

It's worth it to get over your fears of asking for help at work. Ideally, a functional unit is somewhat interdependent, relying on the combined strength of a group of people with different talents and skills. If you make sure to only ask for help from people you'd help yourself, you're just making the team better and your company more successful.

Real Costs for Imaginary Risks

Every so often, a story comes along like that of the female professor who negotiated her salary and lost her job offer. Although much less common than tales of workers who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of their lifetime by not negotiating, those few horror stories have a big impact. The nervous worker might think, "I just won't ask for anything, and then I won't be punished for it."

In actual fact, not asking is worse for your career than speaking up, whether you want more money in your own salary, more resources for a project, or a helping hand from another department. As long as you frame your requests constructively, and ask in a way that's acceptable in your corporate culture, you have much to gain from asking for what you need, and a lot to lose by keeping quiet -- including the respect of your manager, and a chance to move up the career ladder.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you ask for what you want at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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