Whenever you are in the job market or trying to make a sale or up for promotion or seeking a referral, it’s always nice to seek advice and input and assistance from your network – especially from those who you deem to be well connected or to have the inside scoop or to be able to put in a good word or to have the experience and guidance you need for a challenging you are facing. But, please remember, it’s not their responsibility to find you a job or make the sale or establish the connection or figure out the answer… it’s yours.
Responsibility is a curious thing. We often crave it because it makes us feel important; yet, in the next breath, we may shy away from it because, let’s face it, it’s hard work. And, beyond the work itself, it can be intimidating or scary or confidence-zapping or the like.
Remember, people want to help you! In fact, they will like you better because they help you. But, don’t abuse their generosity. In anticipation of asking someone for their time, information or resources, consider this:
- Do your homework. Know as much as you can about your contact’s background, previous experiences, publications, relationship base. If the information you seek is readily available from a source like the internet, no need to require this contact to provide the information to you.
- Clearly state your ask. Be prepared in your email or phone call to clearly state what it is you need assistance with and how you believe this contact can help. Or, as Jerry Maguire said, “Help me help you.”
- Be respectful of your contacts’ time. Remember, we’re all busy, and sometimes, the most valuable information comes from the people in highest demand. If your contact has given you the gift of time, keep your interaction within the allotted meeting duration. And, once you have had that meeting, don’t expect your contact to have time to meet with you again right away – they simply don’t have time and it would be selfish of you to require them to do so if they have already shared their knowledge and resources with you. Speaking of expectations…
- Manage your expectations. As you embark on finding solutions to your challenge, know that you may have to tap into several resources in order to find that magic bullet. It’s unlikely that one person or one book or one site will have all of the information you require. Be prepared to gather data from many different places and then to do the work in order to link them together.
- Follow up with the outcomes – not with the requirement for another meeting or more assistance. As mentioned above, you may not get another chance to visit with an important contact more frequently than once or twice a year. That said, it is always a good idea to go back to your contacts to tell them how you were able to put the resources they shared with you to use. So, if you land the job or close the sale or make the connection, be sure to drop them a note – an email or a handwritten note will work very well – to say thanks. They will love the follow up.
So, take responsibility! Document your goals, identify people in your network and beyond who can help, and then get after it! It’s up to you and you alone. You can do it.