I am happiest when I am helping people. In my career, that has translated to saying yes pretty much every time I was presented an opportunity or someone asked me for help. Sometimes I did it without knowing exactly what I’d signed up for. Often my “yes” resulted in me working longer days or traveling more than usual, and I found myself scrambling for back-up child care and doing advance meal prep on weekends so that I could make it all work.

I’d be lying if there wasn’t a time or two where, midway through a project I wondered how I was going to manage it all. In hindsight, however, I can’t point to a single opportunity where I regret saying yes.  So, what happens when you jump in? Here’s what I’ve discovered:

  1. You might be uncomfortable. None of us has all the answers, but that’s when the learning begins. Often, our greatest growth comes when we are stretched. And let’s face it, if you’re not growing, then your career probably isn’t going anywhere.
  2. You get exposure. Some of my greatest professional development has been through interactions with people from across teams and regions. I love hearing different perspectives, debating ideas and working together for a common purpose. You can also demonstrate your expertise, which means your colleagues will be learning from you!
  3. You become a juggler. It can be challenging managing personal and family commitments with your current workload, and now you’re adding more. How will you manage? In my experience, it’s not necessarily about working longer or harder, but about working smarter. This may require trade-offs and prioritization that you haven’t had to do in the past, but as my mom so often told me, where there’s a will, there’s a way!
  4. You discover new talents. Opportunities present themselves when you possess skills others need. When you engage in something new you may uncover a hidden or under-utilized talent. You may also discover opportunities for growth in parts of the company that you hadn’t previously considered.
  5. Doors open. Your yes allows you to take on projects of strategic importance to the company and showcase your skills, attitude and willingness to go all-in. How you engage, and the value you deliver, will be witnessed by colleagues who may be able to suggest additional opportunities for mentoring, growth or sponsorship.

There are times when yes may not be right for you, and that’s okay. Several big considerations include how the time commitment will impact your life, the timing of the opportunity, and depending on the opportunity, where you are in your career journey.  Do a quick assessment of the risks versus the rewards and make your decision. But decline carefully. The opportunity that you turn down just might be the one that can propel you to something greater!

I’m interested in your thoughts. Has saying yes paid dividends? What happens when you’ve said no? Let me know.