[Jay is downing Coronas today before heading back from the beach… Please enjoy this article by Erin of BrokeMillennial.com in his absence. It’s an important one to keep in mind – esp for you hustlers!]
My mother had an adage she often used if my sister and I ever complained about wanting something we didn’t get. Anytime I’d moan about how (my incredibly privileged) life just wasn’t fair she’d ask, “did you ask for the order?”
The first time I heard the expression, my head snapped up and my pout turned into a look of confusion. What did ordering something have anything to do with the insufferable injustice I happened to be dealing with (probably not getting enough playing time on the soccer field or something equally as insignificant in my life today)? She explained that people weren’t mind readers and if you didn’t ask for what you want how were you supposed to just magically get it?
Asking for the order doesn’t mean you always get what you wanted, nor did it mean acting entitled to something you didn’t deserve. It simply was my mother’s* take on the famous quote, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Her expression became something of a personal mantra for me over the years.
The first time I put it into action had nothing to do with a career or money. As a senior in high school I was required to complete a rigorous thesis project for my International Baccalaureate Theatre class. I knew I wanted to do something no other students in our school had done before. So, I asked if I could take over the theater teacher’s position as director of the school’s fall play.
She not only said yes, but also gave me complete creative control and rarely even sat in on rehearsals. Let’s face it – she probably liked having a break from dealing with dramatic youths.
I got a taste of asking for what I wanted, and now it’s a regular habit (and sometimes not always appropriate).
On the night of my 23rd birthday, I staggered into a Dunkin Donuts around 12:30 at night after a few birthday beers. They had some sort of deal, like two doughnuts for a dollar, but in my inebriated state I started to negotiate for more doughnuts.
I pointed out that in a few hours all the remaining doughnuts would be getting tossed for fresh ones for the morning. What would be the harm in saving them from a sad end in the trash by letting me put them in my stomach?
The pimply teen at the register ended up tossing in six doughnuts for a buck and I felt victorious (until I bit into a doughnut that had been sitting out all day).
Freelancers have to “ask for the order”
I first made the jump into blogging with the lofty mission to help my fellow millennials learn about personal finance. I didn’t have goals of using my site to create revenue, and didn’t even think about leveraging my work for a career as a freelance writer.
As the months went on, I started to hear all about side hustles and picking up extra gigs outside of a 9-to-5. It dawned on me that I could take the skill set I’d developed from my blog and get paid to write. The only catch: figuring out how to find someone to pay me for my work. Thinking back to my Mom’s expression, I simply started to ask around. If someone tweeted at me that they liked my work, I asked if they were hiring.
My first big break happened just about a year ago.
AOL’s DailyFinance tweeted a millennial-focused article to me, probably looking to have me share it with my network. I took a few seconds to draft up a 125 characters response (their handle takes up 15) and asked if they were looking for contributors.
Not only were they in the process of onboarding contributors (I actually got the inaugural slot and still serve as a DailyFinance contributor), but they also asked if I could come in and lead a discussion with the AOL interns about practical budgeting.
All that from a simple tweet.
This success gave me the confidence I needed when a career-changing opportunity presented itself.
A couple of months ago I was approached to write a series for a reward travel site. After deciding to take the job, the owners of the site mentioned they were in the works of creating a finance-focused website with a consumer advocate angle. They asked if I could come in to test the site and give some feedback.
I went into their office, started playing around with the site, and immediately knew I wanted to work for them. The company mission was perfectly aligned with my hopes for helping the American public become financially literate, with the added bonus of increasing transparency in our financial system.
Hearing my mother’s voice echoing through my head, I asked if they had anyone to help develop the content on their blog and to handle their social media presence. When the answer was no, I asked if they were looking to hire someone.
The next step was to more-or-less create my job because the company was a startup and didn’t exactly have defined roles for a brand and content manger (a title I also made up for the job). I went home and created a proposal, which explained the various aspects of what I thought I could do to help the company as it launched and worked to become established. The proposal also included my desired salary and benefits.
A few weeks later I started working for the company, making more money than my previous job and matching all the benefits.
In the last few months, I’ve quite literally changed the course of my professional life by asking for the order. At only 25, I hadn’t quite settled on exactly what I wanted from a career, but I knew I wanted to get into something more finance-focused than my previous job in public relations. I knew I wanted the opportunity to write and to help people. When the opportunity to fulfill those professional desires suddenly appeared before me, I decided to go after it.
After all, why not ask? The worst I could be told was no.
Erin is the founder of the blog Broke Millennial where she uses sarcasm and humor to explain basic financial concepts to her fellow millennials. Erin lives in New York City (as cheaply as humanly possible) and now works for the startup MagnifyMoney.
*In recent years I found out she actually ripped off this expression from my father’s college roommate!
[Editor’s Note: Remember when I told y’all I was thinking of doing some freelance writing myself? So I started asking what peoples’ budgets were before turning them down blindly? That resulted in $1,000 and $500 writing gigs. PER ARTICLE. So asking for what you want REALLY does work. Not always, but often. And Erin helped me to realize this even more after hearing about how many times she just goes after it. So def. keep this in mind while out there hustling!]
[Photo by the (incredible) Reggie Bibbs – Learn about his story here]