The 3 Letter Word You Need to Know to Get Ahead

There are cliches abound when one tries to find ways to get ahead in the workplace or in their business.  “Work smarter, not harder” is a frequent one.  “Keep it simple, stupid” is another famous one.  In the hyper consumer culture that we live in, it is generally frowned upon if someone takes days off of work and does not to give 110% at what they’re doing.  We need to be working as hard as we can whenever we can, often to the detriment of other important things in our life.  In my work experience, however, I’ve noticed there is one powerful thing that will nearly always get you on the fast track to success.  I have noticed this working as an optometrist and even the jobs I’ve worked before I became a professional.

What is this magical method to success?  It’s actually pretty simple.  One word.  ASK.

You heard it here first.  ASK.  That is the path to success in any field.  And this is because when you work, be it as an employee or self-employed, you’re working to prove something to someone else.  As an employee of a company, you most likely have a supervisor or someone that will want to know how you’re progressing.  As someone who is self-employed, you are working to gain customer satisfaction, not only to bring in new customers but to keep the people coming back.

Most people usually try guess what their boss wants and hope it sticks.  As an employee, many people will make it a point to work hard and hope that the powers that be will notice that hard work and keep rewarding you.  This may work in certain positions where everything is based on numbers, but even then hard work alone won’t differentiate you from the others.  The best thing to do is just ask.  Ask your supervisor what is most important to them and find ways to make their job easier.  Ask if there are any extra projects you can work on.  If you’re looking to get promoted to the next position, just ask what it will take and do what you can to get there.  If you make a habit of this and make a habit of succeeding, you will fast track your way to success.

For those who are self-employed, the customer is king.  It might take a little more work to find out what customers want because you can’t just go around and ask people random questions.  That will annoy them.  Set up some type of survey on your website or give the customers the ability to leave feedback after their experience.  After a while, you will notice some trends and you can adjust your business practices along the way.

I can personally attest that simply asking worked for me recently at the workplace.  About a year ago I had a conversation with one of the more seasoned doctors in the company.  I just asked him what the next positions available are int he ladder and how to get them.  He mentioned what it would take but did say all those positions are filled in my area.  A few months ago, one of those positions opened up and in a discussion about who should get the new spot he mentioned my previous interest to the higher ups and it went from there.  It was not necessarily because of hard work that they asked me, though I’m sure working hard didn’t hurt, but simply because I asked at one point.  That’s all it took.

And asking just shouldn’t be used to help yourself get ahead.  It can be used to help others and make things easier for everybody in general.  If you see a co-worker struggling or just in need of some help, ask them what you can do to help.  There doesn’t have to be anything you receive in return right away, but it can give you the reputation as someone who can be counted on to help when times are tough, which is definitely a good reputation to have.

Part of getting ahead in the workplace is being able to showcase yourself and your talents.  If everyone just worked hard at the task they’re given, it would be very difficult to see who should get a promotion or a raise.  Managers look for those who are proactive, and simply asking a supervisor what they are looking for can be the first step to get your foot in the door to getting some recognition.



  1. Being bold enough to ask for what you want (or need!) is key. It’s hard to work up the courage sometimes to take that huge step and approach whoever it is who holds the power to make the decision but it almost always pays off if you can!

    • Syed says

      It can certainly be a tough step to take but sometimes it is necessary. And there’s not really much to lose the worst they can say is no and you find another way to get ahead.


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