Tell people what you want. Then let them help you.

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Photo by Kaleidico on Unsplash

There is a long running tradition that we don’t tell people what we really want. Instead of walking up to the gatekeepers in our lives and saying that we would like them to give us the opportunities that we are seeking, we prefer to avoid the topic. To not put our hands up. To act like we don’t think we deserve or should have something.

That’s not healthy.

Frankly? Nobody is going to give you points for being self deprecating and letting others walk in front of you. That’s not how life works. Professionally and personally, that’s not how life works.

Opportunities go to those who want them.

If you had created a software product, you wouldn’t sit back and wait for the customer to just come right to you and expect that they’ll somehow decide to give you business. The same is true of anything else, you have to be actively trying to persuade people to give you the opportunities you want. It’s called sales, and it’s not a dirty word; it’s a necessary activity.

There are all sorts of perceptions that people have, around where you and your career is going and what you want out of life. People are going to make judgement calls based around those perceptions. People are going to limit and pigeonhole you based on those perceptions. The best possible way to change that is to actively tell people what you are looking for and make sure they know it.

There is something incredibly empowering about being able to say what you want out loud and articulate it clearly. When I first started developing the habit of taking control and stating my wants, I started feeling a lot more respect for them, taking them more seriously myself. I was worried that I would feel cheapened by doing that, but instead I have just grown into a sense of engaged capability.

In my experience? Good people will always want to help.

It’s only when you start to actually articulate what you want that you are really able to define it for yourself. To turn it into a tangible statement of want, rather than a vague concept. And once you have that defined, it’s like having your dreams defined; you’ll be able to work towards achieving and fulfilling them.

The fact is that you are going to get left behind and forgotten if you spend your time being patient and waiting for recognition instead of asking for it. That way lies redundancy and outplacement. The people who are wanting in secret will always be wanting and unfulfilled.

Where ever you want to be — consider that you might get there faster if other people are able to help you out, and if you can let go of your pride and ask for it. The great thing about people, the amazing thing about people is that they love to help each other.

There are some real assholes out there who don’t want to, but there a lot more who are happy to be useful and are willing to give other human beings a leg up.

So let them.

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Joan Westenberg is an award winning Australian contemporary writer, designer and creative director. She is the founder of branding and advertising firm Studio Self. Her approach to messaging, communication and semiotics has built her reputation as a writer, and she has been named as one of the leading startup voices in Australia by SmartCompany.

Her writing has appeared in The SF Chronicle, Wired, The AFR, The Observer, ABC, Junkee, SBS, Crikey and over 40+ publications. Her regular work can be found on Pizza Party, a blog about creativity, culture and technology. Joan is the creator, an open-source workplace inclusion hack, and the author of the book #DIY, a manifesto for indie creativity.

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Chaotic good. Award winning creative director & writer, ft. in Wired, The AFR, SF Chronicle, Junkee. founder / ✨ She/Her.

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