Ask For What You Want

June 27, 2020 By: Sonja S

I had been working as a Human Resource Manager for about seven years at this point in my career.  The role I was currently in was great, but I had pretty much maxed out my growth there.  I remember vividly making a conscious decision to begin putting my resume out in search of my next opportunity.  This time – it was going to be different.  Since I was in such a good space, I was in no rush.  I was looking for some specific things in my next role and also had a specific salary in mind that I wanted to reach.

So – the search began.  I started getting bites on my resume and was invited for several interviews.  I confidently showed up, shared in a dialogue about their needs and my desires.  I was honest about my expectations and listened intently for what each organization had to offer.  Each time, I made it as one of the final two candidates and when it was time to make the final decision, I stood firm on my ask.  Four times in a row, the same cycle……this was over the course of about eight months.  By the fourth time, I have to say – my confidence was waning, and I was getting tired.

I had almost resolved to just remain in my current role.  In fact, for about three months, I didn’t look for any new roles or submit my resume for any positions I saw posted.  Then out of the blue, I received a phone call.  The call came from a partner I had worked with for years in several different organizations. (By the way – relationships matter!)  He informed me of a position that was open, and he thought my skills fit perfect for.  I thought – wow! I feel honored that you thought of me!  He asked permission to share my resume with the organization – I of course said “YES”.  At that moment, I started to feel my confidence come back.

After about two weeks, I received a call from the company.  We completed the phone screen and they invited me for a face to face interview.  Again, we shared in a dialogue about their needs and my desires.  We talked about how I could contribute and what I could learn from them.  It felt like the stars were aligning!  I was feeling the excitement.  This time at the end of the interview instead of thanking me and giving me the whole spill about the next steps in the process – they asked me to wait in the lobby.  About 15 minutes later, the CFO came back and invited me to her office.  I sat down, she smiled and handed me a letter.  IT WAS AN OFFER LETTER!  Woah!!!  This had never happened to me before!  I felt validated, I felt valued, I felt heard and I felt like this was my moment.

When I started to read the letter, everything was great until I got to the salary.  It was about $15,000 less than what I had in mind eight months ago when I decided to embark on this journey.  In that moment, because my emotions were high, and I was having this euphoric experience – against my better judgement – I ACCEPTED THE OFFER ON THE SPOT!  I did not even attempt to negotiate!

Fast forward several months, I am now in the new role.  Still very excited that I made the decision but I have this nagging feeling that I didn’t get what I deserved.  As the HR Leader at this organization, I am closing other offers and negotiating with other candidates.  I see others getting more salary, additional PTO, termination clauses, sign-on bonus, relocation expenses, increased bonus percentages, car allowances, tuition assistance, etc.  I was feeling some kind of way….lol.  Finally, I said to my boss – I would like to share something with you.  I want to thank you for the opportunity to join the team.  I am enjoying the experience; I am learning so much and feel that I am also contributing a great deal.  I was so excited to join the team and had such feelings of euphoria after the interview being made an offer on the spot by the CFO.  However, now, I’m feeling that I may have shortchanged myself a bit. He said – I have to admit I was shocked that you accepted the first offer. Our intent was to show you that you were our choice and we wanted to make it clear by making you an offer immediately, but fully intended that you would have ASKED FOR WHAT YOU WANTED!

So here I am today – sharing with you!  Even in these unprecedented times – amidst the pandemic, social unrest and everything else in between – ask for what you want!  Everything is a negotiation.  What you want may not be a new position or an increase. In fact, I am not encouraging you to ask for an increase during this time. It’s probably not the wisest move given the economic climate.  However, I am suggesting, that you can find other ways to ensure you are heard and recognized by your leaders.   It could be feedback or an outlet to be heard and feel safe.  It could be an opportunity to take on additional responsibilities or to try something new in the organization.  Whatever it is, ask for it!

So here are a few tips:

  1. Ask your manager proactively for a mid-year performance review.  Discuss the goals that were set, review them, and determine if they need to be adjusted or if you are still aligned.
  2. Use this time to revise your resume. Update your skills, projects that you have worked on, volunteering opportunities that you have participated in.
  3. Encourage informal conversations with your colleagues about how they are feeling and how they are dealing with all that is happening.
  4. Send out an encouraging email or message to your team or to the organization.
  5. Schedule a time with your manager to discuss what’s next for you and what you can do to prepare. Be prepared to discuss your desire and where you would like to advance. Also, be prepared to share where you need support.

Remember, your career and well being is in your hands.  Even if you don’t see or sense pro-activity in your organization for your career progression, you can encourage it with your actions.  If you don’t get the results you are looking for, you are all the more prepared to invest your talent where you feel a greater sense of belonging.


“Believe in your ability to conquer whatever is in your heart. You’ve got the goods!” – Sonja Southerland

Sonja Southerland is a seasoned Human Resource Executive with a focus in building organizational culture and designing strategies that support attracting, developing and retaining top talent. She is adept to establishing relationships and using her acumen to influence business decisions that support the health of the organization. Her work over the past 15 years has been pivotal in bringing recognition to women in leadership roles, helping individuals find their career path and building high-trust teams that drive high performance.