Do you need a job to get one? Ask Alexandra Dickinson. She’s taken a not so great situation and turned it into an amazing company empowering women to know their worth and get what they ask for. As the founder of Ask For It, she speaks to individuals and companies on how to ask for their worth.
1. How did being laid off help you make your side hustle your full-time hustle?
Everyone’s heard that it’s easier to get a job when you have a job. If you quit without another job lined up — or worse, if you get laid off — it gets a lot trickier.
I know, because I’ve been there.
I had been working in the communications office of a college for about three years. The vice president had spent an entire school year working with a consultant on a reorganization of our team’s roles and responsibilities. She promised us adamantly from day one that there would be no layoffs, and for some reason, I believed her. The day I got called in to her office, both she and the assistant V.P. were there, looking somber, and I knew something was up.
When I initially told people that I had been I laid off, I got mixed reactions. Sometimes I could tell they were pitying me and thinking, “So glad that’s never happened to ME.” But much more than I expected, people said, “Oh, me too. I’ve been there.” One wise woman even said to me, “It’s a badge of honor.”
I started job searching, but ultimately decided to turn my side hustle into a full time consulting business, which is what I do now.
2. What does “asking for it” mean for you? What’s the biggest mistake women make when negotiating salary?
One big mistake would be not to ask at all. There’s a misperception out there that women don’t ask, but that’s not necessarily true. Some of us don’t, but plenty of us who do either don’t get the results we want because we don’t make a persuasive enough case, or because we face bias. Women still face gender inequality at the office, and it’s not because they aren’t leaning in. It’s because of bias.
3. The idea of negotiating a salary makes me anxious — do you have any insight on why men ask for it and women don’t?
Research shows that women are perceived as aggressive or bossy when they negotiate in a professional setting. Talking about your strengths? Bragging. Asking for flex time? Disconnected from work responsibilities. Whereas when men negotiate, they’re praised for being assertive and direct. It’s no wonder you feel anxious negotiating salary.
I have frequently advised women to use subtle behavior changes, like “think communally, act personally”, to mitigate the negative effects they might feel from negotiating for themselves. In practice, this means acting in ways that don’t challenge existing expectations of female behavior. But I say it’s time to take bigger risks.
If every day we refuse to accept the status quo, commit to challenging expectations and standing up for ourselves, we can force real change.
4. You’ve spoken at incredible companies and organizations like UN Women, Columbia Business School, and Facebook, can you share any tips on how we can ask for it and land our dream clients?
Similarly to negotiating on your own behalf, it’s important to do your research. There’s nothing more awkward than a cold reachout that doesn’t make the connection between your organization and their company crystal clear. What ties you together? Do you share a similar mission? Is your audience comparable? Research as much as you can about your dream client, make it relevant to them, and you’ll feel confident making that initial contact. Also, always be networking. Always.
5. What’s your vision for Ask for It and where do you see it growing in the next 5 years?
I have some super exciting projects in the works that I can’t go into details on yet, but I want to reach a much bigger audience and have some great opportunities to do so. My goal is to help as many women and men as possible learn to advocate for themselves with skill and respect.
Make sure to meet Alexandra in person at our February 21st event in NYC on Asking For It. Grab your tickets here.