Yesterday, I experienced a corporate miracle. Priceline.com made an exception to their no refund policy and issued me a refund. I was so gratified by this experience that it caused me to reflect on the power of asking and where I learned to ask for what I wanted. I know exactly who I learned this message from: I learned the power of ‘The Ask’ from my mentor.
So here is my story. I was working as a consultant at a major media organization in Los Angeles and pursuing my doctoral studies in the 1990’s. I was happy as could be earning $50 an hour teaching classes like Supervision 101 and ironically enough, Assertive Communication. I was happy as could be, that is, until the day I found out that my colleagues were making $100 an hour! Just like that I went from being engaged and delighted with my work to pissed off and de-motivated. I could not understand why my client (who was also my mentor) was not paying me as much as the others! I examined the obvious reasons: Were they better at their work than me? Nope, my teaching evaluations were very high and competitive with the other trainers. Was it because I was younger and doing lower level work? Nope, we were all teaching very similar and comparable courses. I fussed and whined to friends and family members, perused through the assertive communication materials I was teaching (although clearly having a hard time actually using!) until I finally mustered the courage to speak to my mentor/client. First, I told her that I had found out that the other trainers were making $100 an hour. She confirmed this was true. I asked her if my work was not as good as theirs. She said, absolutely not and that my work was as good as theirs. So then I said, “Why am I not making as much as they are?” And she said, “Because you never asked.” She explained that she had her manager hat on when making compensation decisions and that I had asked for $50 an hour and she had given it to me and I was producing and happy. Then, I said, “I am asking now- I want to make $100 an hour. Will you start paying me $100 an hour?” She said, “Yes!” I remember asking her why didn’t she offer me $100 an hour and she said, “No one will ever just give you what you want – you have to know your worth and what you want and ask for it. One of the best success strategies I ever learned. To this day, this mentor is one of my closest friends and influences and I am profoundly grateful for that lesson.
So- back to Priceline and what happened yesterday. Unfortunately, I have a close family member experiencing a medical emergency right now rendering her unable to travel this week. If you look at the Priceline web site and read the fare restrictions it is pretty clear that there are no changes anyway, anyhow, so sorry too bad! When I mustered the courage to call Priceline, the phone tree is daunting and the elevator music they play while you wait on hold repeats the policy. When I finally got a live person on the phone, I started with “Look I understand your policy and it makes sense, but will you listen to my story and consider making an exception.” Surprisingly, they did so and the folks on the other end of the phone abandoned their script and acted like kind humans. They made an exception and my family member got a large chunk of money back. None of this would have happened if I had not asked.
Thanks to my early mentor I remembered: You must ask to get what you want. A few tips I have learned: a) You must ask nicely, b) You must be prepared for a No and at a certain point walk away and come up with a Plan B, c) You must give the person you are asking solutions and choices and be clear about what you want.
So- what lessons or career advice have you learned from mentors? When did you ask and get what you wanted? What will you ask for today?
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