Give Yourself Permission To Ask For Help – I’ve Even Provided a Script.

I love my clients. They are the most amazing people. One part that I love in what I do is the moment they begin to rediscover themselves and the journey that unfolds from there. I do a little happy dance every time these moments happen and again when I receive feedback. For example, yesterday I emailed a working draft to a client. Today, I this was the beginning of his email:

“Lisa, This looks awesome! I am not sure who you are describing here but he seems pretty talented!!”

I was coaching another client today and let me tell you she is a rock star, but a very well hidden rock star. The more we discussed her history and current activities the more impressed I became. Not only that but when I would relay the things that she has and is doing into value for potential employers she started to come out of her shell a little bit to the point that we ended the call with her full of enthusiasm and excitement.

One item we talked about was the hesitancy of asking for help. She is resistant to asking for help and this is so very common across the board for almost everyone I talk to. It’s like this limiting combination of embarrassment and fear. I told her the same thing I tell anyone who will listen: in general people do want to help, but they don’t know. Another factor is people are generally pretty lazy. Not throwing stones, not making judgments just stating facts.

We live in a fast paced world where we are bombarded with obligations and deadlines that far exceed our time frame to adequately perform each. If we receive a request it may not be that we don’t want to help, just that our time is stretched to the limit so having to carve out extra time becomes too difficult and ultimately we are unable to help. If you can make it as easy as possible for the other party to provide you with assistance than you have a greater chance of your request coming to fruition.

Let me use the specific example that I used with this client: LinkedIn and recommendations. Wow, when I told her I wanted to ask for recommendations you would have thought I asked her to go feed kittens to a python. It was putting her completely out of her comfort level. Nonetheless I assigned this as part of her homework; however, as I am not completely heartless I gave her a basis for a script that she could use.

If you find that you have the same discomfort in asking for recommendations, please feel free to utilize the following:

“As you might know I am in the process of evaluating potential opportunities for the next step in my career. In working with a career coach she has assigned me the task of revamping my LinkedIn profile. To that end I am contacting you for three reasons:
1. I understand the value of recommendations and would like to provide one for you; however I want to make sure it is in line and fully supportive of your goals. Is there any certain area or aspect that you would like me to focus on for my recommendation?
2. My coach has also suggested that I reach out and ask for recommendations. If you would feel comfortable doing so, I would truly appreciate a recommendation from you. If you are not prepared do so, I would still like to offer a recommendation for you. (If you feel comfortable you can even give examples of types of things that you are looking to highlight to future employers here).
3. As I said I am exploring opportunities and I would love to get any advice, feedback or tips that you might be able to offer me. I value your opinion so even if there is an individual or company that you think I should speak to, research or might be a valuable resource I would appreciate your thoughts.
Thanks again for your help. I hope things are going well for you and to talk to you soon.”

The value of this script is that you are not only asking for recommendations, you are also offering to provide value for that person as well. Remember, to receive you must give. It has also put this giving as the first point.

The second value that this offers is opening the door for any additional input that this person might be able to provide in a full range of avenues from offering a tip to prompting a potential connection. No matter what they respond any additional information is always good information.

It also is stated in such a way that it puts the blame on me. If my clients are truly uncomfortable in initially embarking on an assignment I always allow them to put the blame on me. This accomplishes two goals: they perform the task and they do not feel as bad in performing it because it is assigned by their coach.

Sometimes we have the irrational thought that someone might get mad for us asking or think we are being presumptuous; therefore, being able to blame someone else gives you the option of basically saying, “I know, I hated to ask – it was her fault, she made me do it.”

So feel free – use me as your excuse to help benefit yourself, I’m a big girl I can take it. All I ask is that you let me know how it goes. I love doing the little happy dance!

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Coach-Strategist
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.

“How Do I Know if I Need Help?” – You Do.

I have had several people ask me this relating to resumes, networking or interviewing and my answer is always, “Yes, you do.” If you think you might then odds are you do. Normally it is a nagging feeling or doubt that makes you wonder this in the first place. Many would call it a gut feeling and if it is nagging you than there is probably a reason.

I have that feeling about a lot of things. The IT side of my business or marketing are two examples of areas where I might think to myself, “I’m doing a pretty good job, but I wonder if I need help…” The answer is yes. Of course I do, I am not an IT or Marketing expert. Why would I think that I could do it better than people who this is their life’s calling?

Yes, I said calling. You see, I prefer to work with people who are passionate. Their primary reason for being in the business they are in is because they love it, they are good at it and it is truly what they want to do. There are many who are wonderful at marketing, but I sense right away that their passion stems not from a love of what they do, but a love of growing their bank account. I prefer not to work with them. No offense, it is a personal decision. I want someone who is going to take my concerns and needs personally.

I am not faulting anyone for trying to make a good living. I am doing the same thing so it is not the pot calling the kettle black. Actually, I had an interesting lesson last month. I believe that we all learn lessons throughout out life and the important ones are tested now and again to make sure we got it and stick to it. I had my test last month.

I had the opportunity to really have a great pay month, the problem was, I was working 16 hours a day, skipped too many work-outs and meditations and did not eat or sleep well. I was all consumed with deadlines. I could do very, very well for myself if I had chosen to continue that path, but my personal health and happiness, and sanity, were worth far more than any paycheck. So I chose balance. I reminded myself what I was willing to do, sacrifice and enjoy to life the life that I want.

Part of living the life that I want is to stop stressing over the things that I know I need help with and just go get the help. I’ll be talking to IT and Marketing gurus until I find the right one for me. I have asked myself the question, “I wonder if I need help” and knew immediately the answer was yes. Sure, I could put in the research and effort to maybe find out the things they know, but my time is better served doing what I do best and using my expertise to help others, not figure out my IT issues.

Value yourself, value your time and treat yourself to hiring an expert when it calls for it. It may cost a bit up front, but your sanity, health, and peace of mind are worth more than any fee they might charge.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Polish, Inc.

Giving and Receiving

I am a big proponent of asking people for help.  There are many things in this world I just don’t know so I am smart enough to know to ask for help.  For those in transition I commonly suggest requesting informational interviews and asking for help.

But perhaps I should clarify this: yes, do ask for help but no, do not expect someone to do all the work for you or overstep your bounds.

Let me give you a couple of examples of what I mean by stepping over your bounds:

I have a friend who is a florist.  She does amazing work and is a very intelligent, earning a marketing degree.  She does a lot of design and creative projects and amazes me with her abilities.  However, there is one individual that frequently asks her to come over and re-design a table, a room, a profile, a house – you name it, she just expects that my friend will do it.

I knew of a gentleman that lived down the street from a cardiologist.  His next door neighbor had to have some tests run and requested copies of all the reports.  Upon receiving the reports he promptly walked up to the cardiologists home, handed him the test results and said, “Can you take a look at these for me and tell me what they say?”

I have another friend that teaches a business basics class, primarily how to write a business proposal.  Every once in a while he will get a participant that will hand him their proposal after the class and ask him to “just take a look”.  After giving a few suggestions he hands it back and inevitably the participant gets upset and says, “I thought you were going to re-write it.” 

Or asking if your friend if know of an individual you can contact then asking them to set up the appointment for you.  Polite is asking them to make an email introduction, rude is asking them to be your personal assistant.

You see, people are willing to help, but please do not take advantage of them.  You are not receiving assistance in that manner, you are burning bridges. 

If you are unsure if you request is approaching the “over the line” test then simply add this sentence to the end of the request:

“Please feel free to say no, I will not be upset.  I am looking for help and sometimes I get a little exuberant and request too much.  So if it is all you have to say is ‘I’m sorry I can’t do more’.” 

Give them an out.  Then honor your word.  If they do not want to help do not hold a grudge, realize that you might have been asking a bit too much of someone.

I think people in general are good and kind and willing to help their fellow-man.  But I also think that people will help because they want to not because they are expected to – please do not put that expectation on them. 

And my last little gentle reminder of the day: be sure that you are always willing to help out your fellow-man.  Those that get without giving will never receive.  Those who give without expecting receive tenfold.