I was having afternoon tea with a friend recently when she started complaining about her organisation's career development programme. "I've been my department's vice president for the last 10 years, when I could easily be a manager somewhere else," she griped.
"Why didn't you leave then?" I asked. My friend said that after being in the same organisation for more than 15 years, she did not think it a wise choice.
She continued by talking about her European manager who was recently laid off, and how she aspires to hold his position as she is the most experienced team member behind the department's work.
Right there and then, she stumbled on the solution to her own dilemma. I told her that this was the perfect time to set a meeting with her organisation's higher management, and to ask to be promoted to that position before someone else was hired.
But like with many women from Gulf countries, she said she would never ask for a promotion, let alone a rise. She said that the company's officials already knew about her, and should instead approach her with the offer.
I convinced her that she should not be shy, that it was her right as an employee to ask for a promotion after all this time, especially given that there was an opening for which she was a great candidate. If the worst came to the worst, they would say no - but at least she would have tried.
A couple of weeks later, I metmy friend again - and she was beaming. She had met the chief executive and human resources manager of her firm, and told them about her career aspirations, her competency and dedication, and the manager's position to which she would like to be promoted. And just like that, her chief executive said "yes". All it took was for my friend to simply ask.
What many young women tend to shy away from are the possibilities that they could choose from if only they asked. According to Connie Glaser, the author of Gender Talk Works: 7 Steps for Cracking the Gender Code at Work, women are less comfortable than men when it comes to negotiating their careers, which over a working lifespan could cost them more than US$500,000 (Dh1.83 million) in lost earnings.
However, when the right time comes and you want to ask for a promotion or a pay rise, a few things need to be kept in mind as outlined in the book, which I also believe work for men.
First, wait for the right opportunity. Sometimes we feel like we are going to explode if we have to wait yet another day. Avoid negotiating when you are emotional, or when you catch your manager off-guard. Instead, set up an appropriate meeting time, when you have your thoughts collected.
Second, do your homework and know exactly what you want. When my friend met her organisation's chief executive, she prepared the main issues beforehand, such as how much of a rise she wanted, a list of her completed projects and achievements, and the reasons as to why she deserved the position. This is the part where it is good to have some statistics to back you up. For instance, how many projects did you manage? How many clients did you bring in? How much profit did you help to generate?
Third, if your organisation is going through a rough financial patch, your request may be rejected. Should that happen, set a date with your manager to discuss it in a few months. You could also agree with him or her on what should you should be doing to increase your likelihood of receiving that promotion or rise
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that rejection should not be taken personally or serve as some form of demotivation.
Sometimes we stop ourselves from moving on to the next level when all we have to do is ask.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati fashion designer and writer based in Abu Dhabi