About a year ago I met a very engaging and outgoing young woman. She is a successful business leader and a Harvard graduate. There is not much exceptional about this, perhaps, except she is from a rural village in Jamaica and is the first in her family of nine siblings to graduate high school.
I was fascinated by her MBA from Harvard but could not find a politically correct opening to enquire further. She must have been used to the curiosity or been asked that question many times because she volunteered the question and provided the answer, almost rhetorically. "How did a poor black girl from a rural parish in Jamaica end up at Harvard? Well, I just asked!"
Is that it? She explained that she had received good grades so she applied to colleges in Jamaica, the USA and Canada. With the US and Canadian applications she included an essay explaining her determination to succeed and detailing the struggles of even completing high school despite family history, poverty, lack of creature comforts at home and the daily obligations of co-parenting her younger siblings. Harvard was impressed with her work ethic and her test scores, and saw her as an asset to its goal of creating classes of students combining smarts and rich, diverse life experiences.
I was deeply impressed with her and came away from the experience with her lesson deeply etched in my brain, "If you want something, just ask." How many times have we as professionals whined and whispered and sulked, but never asked for what we wanted? We want others to be sympathetic and proactive mind readers. We often expect benevolence to just fall on us.
Think about your relationships with colleagues or your boss. Consider what you want from other members of the healthcare team. Do you ever see yourself pursuing a nontraditional career path? What is holding you back from talking that class or pursuing that degree or professional certification? Is there a void in your organization that you think you could fill, only if given the opportunity?
Note, by asking, I do not mean passively and timidly posing a question and nervously waiting for an answer. To me, "ask" is much more active, intentional and determined. I am also not suggesting that you ask for something without being qualified or prepared to succeed at it. Against that background why not ask for what you want?
If you never ask, you might never receive. However, if you do ask, you just might be pleasantly surprised.