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How to Ask for What You Want in Your Career, and Other Advice From Katie Couric

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Behind the scenes at Goldman Sachs, thought-provoking insights are bubbling up each day. This space is for a few nuggets we think are worth sharing. From macroeconomics to the genome medicine revolution to the rise of digital gaming, these stories from around 200 West show you how top-level views can impact your life (and maybe even shape the way you think about money).

We love this discussion between Goldman Sachs’ CEO David Solomon and Katie Couric not only because it covers a wide range of topics, but because she shares experiences and advice that we find incredibly empowering. 

One of our biggest takeaways from her Talks at GS appearance was learning about how she landed her spot as co-anchor of The Today Show in 1991. In what was largely a male-dominated industry at the time, Couric knew exactly what she wanted from her career and wasn’t afraid to ask for it. We think what she shared can be applied not only to work, but to life, money, relationships and more. 

Here’s what we learned from her on how to ask for what you want.

Make sure you’ve earned it.

Couric wasn’t always a world-class interviewer and admits to having pretty much bombed an on-air assignment with CNN early in her career. 

“I thought you know what…I’m just going to keep trying, I’m just going to keep working,” said Couric. “I firmly believe in Malcolm Gladwell’s [position] that you have to do something for 10,000 hours before you get good at it.” 

From there, she spent the next several years honing her skills through constant feedback and exposure to opportunities in local markets – first in Miami and then in Washington D.C., where she eventually got noticed by Tim Russert and was hired as the deputy Pentagon correspondent in 1989.

Ask for something specific.

In 1991, when Couric was asked to co-anchor The Today Show with Bryant Gumbel, she was thrilled at the career opportunity. She also knew she had worked hard to cover real, in-depth stories and “wanted to make sure [she] wasn’t relegated to fashion and cooking segments.” 

Her response to the job offer: making sure NBC agreed to specific terms that would give her what she wanted. 

“I don’t know where I had the hutzpah to [ask this]…but I said ‘I’m happy to take this job…but I need to make sure there’s a 50/50 division of labor between me and Bryant Gumbel.’”

Ask firmly, but nicely.

In her case, it was more of a demand, but one that “[she] demanded very nicely.”

This one should go without saying, but it’s important to note when you’re asking for something, being nice can go a long way. Don’t confuse being nice with meaning you can’t be firm or assertive. You want to balance both the significance of your request while also showing respect and kindness to the other person.  

Be willing to compromise (just a little).

At the end of the day, NBC offered Couric a 49/51 split when she joined, which she agreed to, saying, “I can live with that.” 

As with many things in life, sometimes you have to be willing to compromise – as long as it’s a compromise you can live with. Nearly 20 years later, it seemed to work out pretty well for Couric. 

Other advice we like: Let ‘em know you’re there, from her mom, and don’t let the turkeys get you down, a kitschy quote on her coffee cup. 

Watch the full discussion for more. We think it’s worth it.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.