Sometimes You Gotta Play A Little Hard Ball to Get What You Want

We recently heard a story about two people applying for a Communications Specialist role. 

One applicant fit the position to a T. He had all the skills, relevant experience and was the right culture fit. On paper, he was an easy hire.

The other person was not. But, she wrote to the company and said, “You’re advertising the wrong role. This should be a VP role, not a specialist role. Here’s why, and here’s why you should hire me to fill it.” 

Guess who got the job?

There’s a widespread tendency among employees and job applicants to go along with the pacing and procedure of an organization – waiting patiently for promotions or pay raises, and not being declarative of what they want and why.

Being easy going and agreeable in your career can get you a long way, but sometimes you have to play a little hardball to be respected as a leader and get exactly what you’re after. 


What does “playing hardball” mean?

Specifically in terms of propelling your career trajectory, it can look like this: 

  • Don’t assume people know what you want. You need to let people know what you want, because if you say nothing, people will assume you’re fine with where you are. 
  • Don’t wait for something to come along that suits your skills or interest. Sometimes you have to create it, and then sell the idea to someone else. 
  • When something is offered to you – a new position, promotion, etc. – feel free to tweak it to better suit you and the organization.
  • Call out what doesn’t work in your current role or scope and list out the changes you think would help.
  • Say in clear terms why it’d be a smart decision for the organization to hire or promote you.

Social psychologist Adam Galinsky talks about this in his TEDx Talk “How to Speak Up For Yourself,” and we love his thoughts on perspective-taking, or the value of looking at the world through the eyes of another person. 

He says, “When I take your perspective and I think about what you really want, you’re more likely to give me what I really want… When we take someone’s perspective, it allows us to be ambitious and assertive, but still be likable.”

Think back to the communications specialist candidate who got the job, despite not necessarily being the most perfect candidate on paper. She wasn’t thinking in terms of just the job description, she was thinking of the bigger picture in terms of helping the company. In turn, this perspective helped her land the job she really wanted. 

It takes practice, but the sooner you learn to advocate for yourself, the better positioned you’ll be to propel your career to the next level.

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