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What’s on Your 3 a.m. List?

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

As you think about possible resolutions or goals for the upcoming year, I hope considering a way to improve your negotiation skills is on the list. One way to do this is by creating a “3 a.m. list.”

Imagine that your boss wakes you up at 3 a.m. and asks you to name the top three things you need from your organization to advance your career. Do you have an answer ready?

  • Having a clear idea of what you need from your organization can help you be prepared when opportunities arise to negotiate for your career advancement.

  • One way to use this negotiation strategy in practice is to leverage situations where you are asked to do something.

  • Is there a way to connect that request to something on your 3 a.m. list? By linking your needs to those of the organization, you can negotiate effectively and get more value from your requests.

Strategy: Say yes to the request being asked of you and include your 3 a.m. request. Your 3 a.m. request should explain how it furthers your ability to fulfill the request being asked of you.

Bonus strategy: Explain for 3 a.m. request first and then say yes. People are more engaged in what you say before you give your yes or no answer. Once they know whether you will meet their request, they are less interested in the explanation.

Example: John’s company provides a $5k tuition credit every year. John used this tuition credit to take an advanced finance course earlier in the year. He recently saw an announcement for a position opening in 6 months in the acquisitions department, and it is one of his goals to transfer into that department. The position description listed knowledge of derivatives as a bonus skill, and a course at the local university is offered next semester in derivatives; however, John has exhausted his tuition credit for the year. As John mulls over his options, his boss asks him if he is willing to consider taking on a new project requiring him to work closely with the acquisitions department.

John sees this as an opportunity to connect the request to work closely with the acquisitions department with something on his 3 a.m. list. He decides to negotiate for the opportunity to take the derivatives course as part of taking on the new project. He explains how the knowledge and skills he will gain from the course will benefit the project. John’s boss agrees to cover the course cost to ensure that the project is completed properly and on time. Trust plays a factor in his boss’ decision, and John can leverage his prior track record as a reliable and hard-working employee to find a mutually beneficial solution.

  • By linking his need for professional development to the organization’s needs, John can negotiate effectively and get more value from his request.

  • His boss agrees to support John in taking the course, recognizing the benefits it will bring to both John and the company.

  • This helps John achieve one of the items on his 3 a.m. list and puts him in a stronger position to achieve his ultimate goal of transferring to the acquisitions department.

As you plan for the future, consider what you need from your organization to succeed and advance. Keep your 3 a.m. list in mind as you look for opportunities to negotiate for your career goals.

Happy Negotiating!


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