There are 5 simple steps each of us can take to get what we want and need at work. Now I will not promise these steps will not necessarily guarantee that promotion or raise (or new boss) you’re dreaming about but they can help you ask for what you want and need, and move closer to meeting your goals.

Step 1: Plan and prepare. What exactly do you want? Is it realistic? Before you can ask for anything, you need to be able to define what it is you are looking for. A vague, “I want to be busier,” or “I want more interesting work,” is not enough. Define what those things mean to you. And write it down so you won’t forget. Once you define what it is you want, you then need to figure out who can help you get it. Just talking to your colleague in hopes that she will pass it on to someone in a position to actually help you, is not the answer.

Step 2: Keep your eyes open. Once you have defined what you want and who might be able to help you, make sure that your timing is right. Don’t make your “ask” the day a major project is due, the day your supervisor returns from vacation, or when it is clear that your boss is having a bad day.

Step 3: WIIFM. What’s in it for me (WIIFM)—or in this case, the person who can help you? As you prepare for your “ask,” think about how helping you will help the other person. Make your ask a “win-win.”

Step 4: Make your ask. Once you are fully prepared and have followed the first 3 steps, make your ask. Don’t wait to be noticed. Your ask should be polite, professional, and clear — ask for exactly what you want; don’t expect the person you’re asking to “get it.” It is critical to be clear.  Have your “business case” ready and be sure to include how meeting your needs helps the person you’re asking!

Step 5: Don’t stop with your ask. If the person agrees right away, good for you!! Be sure to say thank you. If the person asks to think about it, thank them for their consideration and ask if you may follow up in a week or so. And if they say no, again, thank them for their time and ask them if there are specific steps you can take to move closer to your goal. And take care to not “burn your bridges” or sulk if you do not get what you want. You may get it next time.

While these strategies are not foolproof, they will maximize your opportunities to get what you need to move your career forward. And what better time to be planning to that next phase of your career than the end of the year!

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Nancy Segal is a federal human resources training and job search expert. Following her own 30-year federal HR career (much of it at the senior level), she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC in 2003 to provide an HR management perspective to both federal managers and astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy has unmatched federal career management insight, high standards, and respect for people’s time, and her clients use this to their advantage.