Finding Your Voice: How Speaking Up Can Transform Your Career

From silent struggle to career success: How asking for what you want can change everything


Jolie Downs


Throughout our careers, we often face moments where we have a choice: speak up about what we want or stay silent. While it may feel intimidating to voice our desires and ideas, doing so can open up incredible opportunities for growth and fulfillment. As several guests on the Career Wanderlust podcast have shared, learning to ask for what you want is a powerful skill that can transform your professional journey.

Jenni McDonough, for example, witnessed firsthand how employees speaking up about their experiences after the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor led to meaningful organizational change around diversity and inclusion. By sharing their stories, these employees helped leadership understand the importance of seeing, acknowledging, and supporting every individual. As Jenni put it, "If you don't care about your people, you won't have your people for long."

PR professional Travis Murdock also learned the value of transparent communication during a press tour crisis early in his career. When the company had to cancel a much-hyped product launch at the last minute, Travis spent 24 hours personally calling every publication to explain the situation with total honesty. This proactive, upfront approach ultimately earned him and the company tremendous respect and trust.

In another inspiring story, Dorothy Chang shared how manifesting her dream of connecting with PR legend Brooke Hammerling quite literally changed her life. The moment Dorothy committed to reaching out was the same moment a recruiter from Paradigm called with an opportunity to work for Brooke. By not being afraid to express her aspirations, Dorothy set in motion a series of events that would catapult her career.

As Dorothy wisely advises, "Exercise that curiosity and ask for what you want to learn. Ask for what you want to get. You're not going to get what you don't ask for." While it may seem obvious, far too many people, especially early in their careers, get stuck in a mindset of simply doing what they're told. In reality, you can have much more agency over your professional path by proactively voicing your interests.

Allen Shapard echoes this sentiment, noting that while many people are afraid to ask for what they really want, doing so more often than not leads to positive outcomes. As he puts it, "The payoff is so much more likely than the disappointment." He encourages others to push past the hesitation because the worst thing that can happen is simply getting a no - and even that opens the door to further negotiation.

Even if you speak up and ask, and the answer ends up as a no or indifference, you will be gifted with clarity. David Barkoe was a VP at a PR agency in Miami when he noticed an amazing opportunity to focus on the local startup community that was being neglected. He talked to his boss about starting a new division within the company to service this need and he was told no. He did not get the answer he was looking for but by knowing the answer, he could make an informed decision from there. David knew that he would not thrive in a place where his voice was not honored so he made a change. He followed his voice, left the company, and started his own agency focusing on the startup community within Miami. Carve Communications has been a growing success since it opened in 2014.

Of course, speaking up isn't just about making requests, but also about bringing your full, authentic self to your work. PR executive Julia Lechner has found that openly sharing her multifaceted interests has led to exciting projects that perfectly suit her skills and passions. Julia learned the value of sharing authentic parts of yourself as she grew in her career. Because of this, people at her company knew she loved podcasting, loved comedy, and loved holiday movies. When an opportunity to do a podcast with TV Guide about holiday movies came along, many people spoke up and said Julia would be the perfect person for the role. As Julia shares, "If it's something you think you can lend to your organization, don't hide portions of yourself," she advises. "People will keep your name in mind when an opportunity arises."

In conclusion, the stories shared by these Career Wanderlust guests offer a compelling case for finding your voice and using it to shape your career journey. Whether you're asking for a new opportunity, sharing constructive feedback, or simply expressing your authentic self, speaking up is an act of empowerment. So take inspiration from those who have gone before you and start exercising those vocal cords - your dream career may be just a few bold words away.

Guests mentioned in this post:

Jenni McDonough, Chief People Officer with Alloy:

Travis Murdock, EVP and General Manager of Sonus PR:

Dorothy Chang, Co-Founder of Lynx Collective:

Allen Shapard, Managing Director of Communications with Noodle:

David Barkoe, CEO of Carve Communications:

Julia Lechner, Head of Editorial and Social at Nextdoor:

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