Just Say No

A few weeks ago I asked how you take control of your career. One of the best ways to stay in the driver’s seat of your life is to learn to say no to some of the many requests for help we all receive on a regular basis.

I’m not talking about saying no to your boss’s orders or your professor’s homework assignments. I’m talking about those extra favors we do for friends and colleagues.

No More Mr. Nice Guy?

In general, most of us try to be “nice” and to help others when we can. But the desire to help others and to be liked can get in the way of us doing what we really want to be doing. By learning to say no to things you’re not really passionate about, you have more time to pursue your own goals and can focus your efforts on helping others in ways that fully capitalize on your strengths.

Building a personal brand means you identify ways in which you can provide value to others and then generously offer your assistance to help others achieve their goals. Obviously, you can’t say no all the time and you can’t say no to something just because you won’t benefit from it. That would contradict the ideas behind personal branding.

Say “No” So You Can Say “Yes!”

If you want to take control of your career and life you have to decipher the appropriate times to say “no” so that you can genuinely provide an enthusiastic “yes!” to those requests that align with your values and strengths.

Consider saying no when:

  • There isn’t enough time to adequately address the issue or resolve the problem
  • You’re not the best person to provide assistance (often times we are just the most convenient or the most likely to say “yes”)
  • You’re already stretched too thin and don’t have time or energy to give it 100%
  • Saying yes would directly contradict what you stand for

Saying “yes” in any of these situations cheapens our brand. We put a lot of energy into figuring out our passions, finding a focus and working to make things happen so why risk it by saying yes to things that take away from these efforts?

Instead, refer the person requesting your help to someone in your network who has the expertise, time or enthusiasm necessary to better assist in a given situation. Sometimes connecting others is a much better solution than doing something ourselves.

What do you think? Is it difficult to say “no”? How do you figure out when it’s best to say “yes”?


Kelly is a career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she assists undergraduate business students with all aspects of their career development. Connect with Kelly on Twitter, her blog, LinkedIn or BrazenCareerist.

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