Stick up for yourself this year.
I like to compare myself to Angelica from Rugrats. I am bossy and loud and likely the nightmare of more than a few people I know. If I don't like something, I will politely (most of the time) say so, and if I hate something, I will avoid it at all costs and pretend it doesn't exist. (Shout-out to cheese.)
Except with work. In work, I am still trying to unlearn the idea that speaking up for myself will mean I am barred from writing for a specific publication or outlet and will never write for them again. Yesterday, I asked for a rate I was worried was too high and prepared myself to be told how dare I; that I would never work on the internet again. (Instead, my editor said, "Sure!" and we moved on to the essay layout.) Here are a few tips to remind you (and myself) to have your own back this professional year.
It's better to ask than to not
Unless your request is completely off-side ("Hello, can I have your job, please?"), the worst thing any boss can say is no. So, if you want more money, a promotion, a place on a project, a transfer? Ask. You may not get it, but you're advocating for yourself and showing that you're willing to advocate for yourself. Plus, it's practice: eventually, asking for that meeting or that placement or whatever-it-is-you want will stop feeling like a risk and simply seem like a conversation. And while I'm typing this knowing full-well that I still get nervous about asking for a higher rate (and even an extension), I'm now finishing this paragraph knowing full-well that at least we're in it together.
Which brings me to my next point: Don't apologize about or before asking for something. Don't apologize for asking to schedule time, don't apologize for pitching your ideas, don't apologize for adding your ideas in a meeting. Don't be rude. (Translation: Don't interrupt whoever's speaking and say, "That's stupid and you're stupid—here's what I think" because that's incredibly unprofessional.) But making a suggestion or a request isn't anything you need to say sorry about. Why are you sorry? For taking up time? Absolutely not. You can still be professional and polite (if that's what you're worried about) without prefacing an introduction without, "Hi, sorry!" Maybe they should feel sorry for making you feel like you need to apologize.
And on that note: stop saying "just"
"Hi! Just circling back . . ." and other email greetings that haunt my dreams and reality. "Just" suggests you're casual, the issue's not that important and you're being breezy! So, here's something I try to remind myself: I am not cool. I am not casual at work, typing emails while leaning on something while wearing a leather jacket, not at all worried about somebody replying to me. In reality, I want a reply immediately. I want my question answered, and I want someone to say, "Congratulations! Here is all the work." I am, 99% of the time, staring at my computer screen with the intent typically reserved for a forensic scientist, combing any surface for prints. I am not "just" emailing anybody. I am intentionally emailing a person I need a reply from, and there is nothing casual about it. I am not casual. Most people are not casual. It's okay to seem a little bit demanding. Please get back to me before I combust.
It's not a personal dig to complain about something professional
Or to ask for something, or to say you don't want to do something, or to request that something is done differently going forward. Because in the immortal words of my personal hero, Michael Corleone (I know it's problematic, but please let me have this), it's not personal, it's business. You're not telling your boss personally that you think they're cheap and withholding (unless you are, and in that case, good luck) by asking for a raise, you're asking for more money from the company you both work at. You're asking that your professional life get better, and you're talking to them about it because that's usually the way most companies work. You're not insulting anybody, and you're not framing anybody as the enemy—you're looking out for yourself. And for other people too! Because frankly, who knows what your ask could inspire and even lead to.
Even if it's the reduction of "just."