Asking for Help, How Not to Morph into a Parasite

mosqIn business building or job searching, one of the most important things you can do to increase your success is network. 

Not just attend events and exchange cards, really connect, share, provide value and ask for help.

That last part can lead to valuable information, knowledge and contacts or it can brand you as a parasite.

There is a fine line between being helpful and being taken advantage of.

I have found more often than not, people want to help you.  They will offer time to have a phone conversation or give their advice, all you have to do is ask.

The problem comes when you cross the line from asking to expecting, you start taking advantage of their good nature.

This week I came across a few examples of people being helpful and friendly and the situation quickly turned into a negative experience.

One woman had offered advice and insight, at the last minute, to a peer; after a joint meeting the peer requested time with her at that moment.  She was not available, but offered the next day.  Her peer became upset with her.

My best friend is having concrete work done.  The contractor explained that it is just him and he had a couple of other big jobs and asked if she could delay her start to help him out.  She was fine with that, she’s a nice person, and she understood.  It has been over a week that her yard has been torn up and not seen or heard hide nor hare of him.

I have been there, done that.  It always amazes me how the situation turns ugly so quickly.

Someone will ask for me to review their information and I do so gladly, giving suggestions and advice.  I love helping people and always offer a free review.  People may not need to hire me, sometimes they just need a little boost in the right way.

However, there are times that individuals then come back with the expectation that I will continue to critique and guide them throughout the entire writing/networking/interviewing process on their schedule (which is normally last minute) and for free.

Here are some ways to tell if you are a parasite.

  • If you begin with a small request and then morph into demanding the full monty on your time schedule and become insulted that I am not willing to accommodate, you might be a parasite.

  That whole passive-aggressive look is so last season, drop it.

  • If you start with an unusually high amount of flattery, you might be a parasite. 

What you are really telling me is you think I am an idiot that can be buttered up and manipulated.  I survived teenager boys who were expert charmers, you are being     disrespectful, not sincere.

  • If you try to justify why I should give you my time, lots and lots of my time and expertise on your schedule and on my dime, you might be a parasite.

A lesser degree of passive-aggressive and flattery, but still in the same vein, still insulting.

  • If you angrily argue with me over the advice I have given you, you might be a parasite.

You asked me, remember?  I am sorry if you do not like what I have told you but I am not your spouse, I don’t tell you what you want to hear to make you feel better or shut you up, I tell you what you need to hear.

  • If you ask about costs and then ask, “But can’t you just do it for free?” you might be a parasite

Oh gee, if wishes and buts were candy and nuts, oh what a wonderful Christmas we would all have.  It is a saying my mom used to tell us when we came up with excuses or unreasonable requests.  Who knew I could ever be able to use it myself – or would.

  • If your justification for asking is that this is something that I do every day so it is no big deal for me, you might be a parasite.

Yes, you are right, I do this every day, I have dedicated myself to my craft.  I take pride in it and love what I do; this translates that to me, it is not a big deal.

  • If you try to guilt me into helping you, you might be a parasite.

My grandmother was the queen of guilt trips so there is no way you can hold a candle to her, nice try.

  • If you try to bully me, telling me that you would hate for people to know how unaccommodating I am, you are a parasite. 

And a bully.  Really, you are just a jackass.

  • If you tell me that someone else offered to do this for you for free or spend an incredible amount of time with you on their dime, so you do not see why I can’t, you might be a parasite.

This one is easy, then go call them.

I absolutely advocate asking for help.  Just please keep in mind when you do to mind your manners.  Thank the person for agreeing, act professionally, listen to what they have to say, thank them again for their time at the end and offer yourself as a resource or for any assistance that they might need in the future.

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

 

 

Just Ask For Help Already

Image  I love tomatoes.  My favorite food in the summer is a salad made with avocados, black olives and tomatoes.  I love picking tomatoes off the vine and eating them like an apple for a snack.  I also make a killer cucumber and tomato salad.

 

For these reasons, I need fresh tomatoes.  Yes, it is a need.  Not want, need.

 

Sounds simple enough. 

 

I looked outside at what used to be my garden and see two of my dogs chewing on the grass that has taken over.  I also catch them fertilizing the weeds that have invaded.

 

Not an ideal tomato patch.  It needs a lot of cleaning up.

 

But before I can clean it up, I need to cordon it off.  The two big dogs have a way of trampling, fertilizing and marking things; but the little one, well, she was trained by my old pack leader how to pick tomatoes off the vine and eat them.

 

So before I can plant, I need to clean it up; but before I can clean it up, I need to create a crazy-dog proof fencing.

 

I say crazy because one dog scales six foot privacy fences and the other can pretty much open any latch man has made.

 

So I have to build something.  I decide a fence with added features on the corners will cure the scaling dog and a couple contraptions on the latch will slow down the other.  I need to build a six foot fence and gate that match the existing fencing and gates.

 

Which means I have to prepare before I build, before I clear, weed, prepare and plant. 

 

Post holes need to be dug, things have to be measured off, materials have to be purchased without the risk of returning because they are the wrong things.

 

All I wanted was tomatoes.

 

One simple thing that has turned into a huge to-do list, an overwhelming to do list.  The first thing is dig the holes for the posts.  

 

After a couple of weeks, and only being able to dig down 12 inches and they kinda looked in line; I finally gave in and asked for help.  I had no choice.  If I was going to get my tomatoes this year, then I had to admit I was out of my element here.

 

I called for backup.  I called one of my best friends.  I even made the request more urgent by telling him that our 21-year-old son was going to help me build the fence. Yes, my son’s father is one of my best friends. 

 

He is also an expert at cars, building and well, sometimes everything – but that is another story.

 

He built the deck on the back of the house and many moons ago used to build desks and privacy fences.  The man can build.

 

Yesterday the rest of the post holes were completed then two eight foot and two ten foot posts were set in concrete.  I helped, I just want to say.  I carried lumber, poured concrete mix, held things straight, strung twine and masterfully added water to the concrete. 

 

I was so excited at how much progress was made in a couple hours with help that when my little buddy (my two year old neighbor) popped his head up and asked, “Whatcha doing?” I had to tell him about the fence, gate and garden.   Hey, I was excited and he asked! 

 

Then he asked why, I think a natural response from two year olds, so I told him to keep the doggies out of my tomatoes.  I completely lost him then because I said the magic word “doggie” (he loves my dogs) and he was off trying to see them between the fencing. 

 

Today, the bracing goes up and probably the fencing.  This means that soon after the gate, clearing, tilling and preparation can be done for planting this weekend!

 

Now, had I not asked for help, this project could have stretched out indefinitely, which means no fresh tomatoes for me this year. 

 

I am not a person to ask for help easily.  I am stubborn.  I could justify this not asking by saying other things like I am independent, my dad and ex taught me how to use tools, blah, blah, blah.  But let me just cut to the chase – I am stubborn.  I want to be able to do things on my own.

 

It burns me when I cannot.

 

I put my big girl shoes on and asked for help because I needed it.  Sure, I could have done it all myself.  It would have taken me a crazy long time to complete and honestly, may not have been as solid as what it is now.  I would have wasted a lot of time, money and energy only to have to have it all fall down after I did it on my own.

 

I’m still breathing after I asked for help.

 

That’s the other thing – it didn’t kill me to ask for help.  No price to pay, no begging, crying, pleading, humiliating sucking up; I just simply had to ask.  It was so easy.  Why do we set it up to be so difficult?  Why do we force this “I can do it all on my own” attitude on ourselves and then when we realize we are out of our league we have to compound the problem by “having” to ask for help?

 

I didn’t have to – I wanted to.  We work well together, he does awesome work and I always, always learn something.  I also let him know how much I appreciate his help and expertise.  He felt good about being able to help.  It was a good thing all the way around.

 

We are not made to do all things ourselves.  We need help.  People like to help.  We just need to get over it and simply ask.  Then those that need the help are connected with those that like to help and guess what – it is a win-win situation!

 

Where are you stalled?  What is some hurdle that you cannot get over to move on with a goal?  What is it that you are lacking in order to accomplish this goal?  For me it was two things:  knowledge and brawn.  Look, there is no way I was heaving four 50 pound bags of cement to the back yard.  Just wasn’t going to happen.

 

Figure out where you need the help, get over yourself then ask for help.  I know part of it was ego, luckily being only five foot tall there isn’t a lot of ego to get over, but I had to; and once I did, I can see the vision coming together.

 

I think I might have to put this into practice more often.  It feels awesome to know that not only will I be able to plant tomatoes soon, but the gate and fence are going to be solid, well build and look great.  What else can I accomplish if I just ask for a little help?  What can you?

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

 

The 1 Thing To Do RIGHT NOW To Recharge, Launch or Boost Your Career, Business or Job Search

finger pointingI am going to let you in on a very powerful secret.  It is something that you can do immediately upon reading it that will literally change the game.

 

Imagine people helping you, willingly and with joy, find that right job or connect you to the right clients.

 

And it will start to happen when you do this one thing.  The best part is – you can do it right here, right now without any physical strain or money invested!

 

Seriously, it is that easy.

 

And it is literally two words.

 

Can you imagine a life-changing opportunity by just following two words?

 

It can happen – you just have to follow these two little words.

 

Are you ready for it?  Really, really ready for it?

 

It may sound harsh and may be bold but ok, here goes; brace yourself:

 

Stop whining.

 

That’s it.

 

That is the wisdom, that is the simplicity and that is the key.

 

I have spoke repeatedly on the importance of having gratitude, knowing your value and giving to others unselfishly; however before you can begin embracing these things (which are all important components of reaching your goal) you must first start at ground zero.

 

Ground zero is you.  People will support you and opportunities will develop if you allow them.

 

Whining repels people.

 

People get frustrated and feel unappreciated in helping someone that continually complains.  The more you whine the more people quite honestly do not want to hear it, especially if they have tried to help you.

 

Imagine the good feeling you have in telling someone about a potential job opportunity and their response is, “well it really isn’t what I am looking for, it is beneath what I have done in the past and I am just so tired of the only jobs available are ones that I am way overqualified for.”

 

I would be done.

 

We have a little thing we do between my son, his father and myself to help remind each other to not whine.  When, even in a missed attempt, we try to help one another if the receiver starts whining the giver simply looks at them and says, “You are welcome.”

 

People give because they want to and they will continue to give when they know it is appreciated and they feel it has done some bit of good.  It makes people feel good.  We like to feel good; therefore, the more good we feel we do the more we give.

 

Whining tells people immediately to not even bother trying because you probably are not going to appreciate it so it will suck the happy right out of your giving.

 

Two words, so simple in their statement and even thought I have presented it in a flippant manner, it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

 

When you get into whiner zone sometimes you do not realize how far deep they have plunged into that pool.  Whining becomes a natural reaction.  An annoying reaction, but an instant reaction.

 

It has to be a conscious decision one that you work on until it no longer is a reaction nor a chosen response.

 

When you feel a whine coming on take a breath.  It will make you stop a beat.  Either bite it back and don’t release it out loud or try something radical – state out loud something you are thankful for.

 

This doesn’t have to be major, just something.  For example I came home the other day with my mind on fully focused on a project unsure if it will come to fruition.  While I was gone pup number 4 had decided to open the mail, go through the sales papers by tearing them up and leaving them all over the kitchen and then making sure no other pup played with his mess, he peed on them.

 

Needless to say I wasn’t a happy camper.  Instead of whining about it, I took a breath, smiled at him and said, “I’m thankful you didn’t poop in the living room.”

 

Hey, you take a win where you can get it.

 

The point is, I could have easily come home and whined about the project and lack of movement, but instead I realized no one wanted to hear that and hey, my life isn’t that bad, I didn’t have to clean up poop.

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

www.CareerPolish.com

 

 

Job Block – Can’t See the Forest for the Trees

forest

What I often discover when talking to clients about their current situations and thoughts about how they want to move forward is one of two things:

 

Tunnel Vision

Forest Syndrome

 

Their tunnel vision is a self-imposed captivity of only being able to see themselves in their current position.

 

The forest syndrome is not being able to see the forest from the trees.  They have become so entrenched in what they are doing or the “failures” of the past to be able to see a positive direction to move forward.

 

When you boil it down it is a matter of perspective.  We are sometimes too close to the situation that we can not evaluate it objectively or even in a hopeful manner.

 

Just because you have been doing a certain job for some time does not mean that is where you will always be – you are not stuck unless you allow yourself to be stuck.

 

This is a point when it is important to get another view point.  You need someone else to look objectively at your situation, skills and help you identify what you really want and not just what you think you can do.

 

Friends and spouses are well meaning but sometimes unable to help us, not of their own fault but our own.  Of course, sometimes they are not the best help because they want to be supportive and any type of criticism, even positive, would seem like a negative and unsupportive.

 

For example if you have asked a friend to review your resume and give input and the only thing they tell you is: it looks great, they are not helping.  You need constructive criticism.  If it was so great why are you not getting the call?

 

They need to tell you when what you have written does not make sense or does not really portray your value.  But they probably won’t because they don’t want to upset or challenge you.

 

Of course, you may not be able to take constructive criticism well because you are personally involved with them and take it as a personal attack.  Or you may brush off their helpful tips because you don’t think they really know what they are talking about.  If that is the case, why on earth did you ask for their help?

 

Sometimes we negate the ability for friends and family to help us because we are embarrassed.  Maybe we don’t really know what we want to do next.  Or maybe you have this crazy idea and don’t want them to think you have completely gone off the deep end.  So you keep it to yourself.

 

If job searching was easy you won’t need the help.  If you are not getting the results you want than odds are you need help.  Get over yourself and ask!  I have a wonderful support system, yet sometimes they can be a total pain in the rear when asking for help.

 

For example, if I am trying to fix something mechanical, electrical or structural in my house I know exactly who to ask.  He is an expert on these things and just happens to be my ex-husband – and one of my best friends.

 

This means he knows me very well.  If I need help with anything he is always there and always helps.  Recently, I had a bit of flooring work to do and asked for his help.  One of the first comments was something to the effect of “you think you know what you are doing but you don’t”.  It was not meant to be mean it was simply just a comment.  I just smiled and said I knew, that is why I was asking for his help.

 

I have learned to bite my tongue, remember it is not a personal jab, just a comment.  Let it go.  I also know that he will be very honest with me if I am doing something wrong and help me correct it because bottom line is he wants it done right and in my best interest.  So I learn to bob and weave the comments and sometimes, give a little jab back.

 

But he also gets me to see the bigger picture.  Maybe I could fix something my way, but it will cause problems for something else that I never even thought of.  I hate when that happens but that is why I ask him – because he can see the forest for the trees.

 

This is the person you personally know to help you.  If you have someone in your circle of friends that is honest, willing to give constructive criticism and you trust then ask them for help.  If the personal feelings are going to get in the way then don’t.

 

Ask for professional help.  We are not as scary as you think.

 

If nothing else there are plenty of career coaches or resume writers that will give you a critique of your resume.  Many for free – I do.  I think it important to give someone an objective viewpoint in order that they have the information they need to move forward.

 

One word of caution on the reviews – there are many sites out there that will give you a review and quite a lengthy one; read it carefully.

 

I have worked for national sites that offer these critiques and they are pretty much a standard format.  They give broad statements that make you feel like you have the worst thing penned to paper ever.  Wide reaching statements like “you have spelling and grammatical errors throughout the resume”.

 

Really?  Where?  I want to know you actually read it to point these things out.  Don’t fall for general statements that are scare tactics.

 

Whether it is a friend or professional assisting you ask questions!  Why do they think something needs to be changed?  What would they suggest and why in changing format, verbiage or anything else?

 

I want to know the whys.  Not just change this or do it this way but why.  What difference will it make or is it just something that they are saying to make themselves feel that they are adding value.

 

When you think you need help that is the time to ask.  But don’t just stop at asking for help, ask for clarification.  If their reasoning does not resonate with you then it is not a change you should make.  But you need to be willing to listen because maybe, just maybe, they are seeing something that you cannot and that could make all the difference.

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Want Help – Follow 2 Simple Steps

please and thank you

I have a friend that bought a house earlier this year.  We have pretty much converted the whole house into something new and, well quite frankly, it looks great.  Painted every room, decorating, staining and putting up trim, redoing kitchen cabinets, putting up backsplash, new light fixtures – top to bottom we are transforming that house into his own.

 

I say we because I’ve been the head painter, decorator, shopper and project manager.  Last weekend we painted the outdoor storage shed – more like a mini house.  Later I had someone else ask me why I have done so much to help my friend.

 

It is simple, really.  Just two little reasons:

 

  1. He      asked.
  2. He is      appreciative.

 

That’s it.

 

I find as a rule, most people do want to help you.  You might run into apprehension when asking, but that is nothing to take personally.

 

Normally when someone is apprehensive it is due to either having been asked for help but expected to produce results or a continual barrage of requests without listening to the advice given.

 

Here is an example of each of these scenarios:

 

A job seeker reaches out to a possible contact to request their opinion or advice.  The contact agrees to give them time and the job seeker then ends up asking them who they know that is hiring or could connect them to in order to get a foot in the door.

 

A job seeker contacts a possible contact to ask for advice and the contact speaks to them for a period of time giving good, solid information and suggestions.  The next day the job seeker calls back to clarify what they said and ask exactly how they should do one thing they suggested.  A couple days later they call again with the mind set that it isn’t working and what are they doing wrong, or is there anything else they should be doing.

 

People don’t mind helping; but when it becomes an expectation it crosses the line and they are no longer willing to provide assistance, information or expertise.

 

Many will say that they don’t know how to get help.

 

Ask.

 

It is as simple as that.

 

Reach out and ask for their time and advice.  Be respectful in knowing the boundaries, do not expect more than what is offered, do not use it as an opportunity to recruit them as your own personal head hunter or connector to anyone else.  Keep it simple and respectful.

 

The next important aspect in receiving someone’s help:

 

Thank them.

 

A simple follow up note stating your appreciation will go a long way.  Who doesn’t like to feel appreciated?  I know last weekend after I was home and settled for the night my friend called and simply said, “I just wanted to thank you for all you have done.  I really appreciate it.”

 

That one simple gesture was genuine.  It is one reason why I don’t mind giving up my time and putting work into his projects.  He appreciates it and tells me as much.

 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or opinions.  Simply ask giving the parameters of what you are asking.

 

If you are looking to break into a new field you can contact someone already working in the industry and tell them that they are doing a job that you would love to do and would simply like to find out more about how they got there to determine your next steps.  Be clear that you are not asking for a job or leads, just simply would love some industry insight.

 

If they agree, keep your conversation within the allotted time period, stick to your questions and do not meander over to the dark side of asking them to do any more for you.

 

At the end of the conversation thank them for their time and value that they presented to you.  Immediately write a thank you note and pop it in the mail.  If you don’t do thank you notes, which I see no reason not to, the next day send them an email thanking them again.

 

These two things: asking and appreciation, will serve you well now and in the future.

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

 

It Is A Favor – Not An Obligation

I heard a very disturbing conversation yesterday and of course I have to share.

A woman was telling her friend about the renovation to her home and was complaining about how long it took and the lack of response from the person performing the service.

I would have been okay with the constant, nagging, whinny complaining had it been due to poor execution which did not meet certain, specified expectations which were set out when she contracted the service provider.

But this was not the case.  The person who did the work was a friend who did it as a favor.

Let me pause for a moment to give us all a vocabulary lesson:

 

fa·vor noun – something done or granted out of goodwill, rather than from justice or for remuneration; a kind act:

ob·li·ga·tion noun – something by which a person is bound or obliged to do

 

Let’s recap: a favor is something done out of goodwill, out of the goodness of one’s heart; an obligation is something that is responsibility, duty or contractual requirement.  In other words you are paying for one.

This woman was complaining that the friend didn’t respond when she would call to ask questions or check on when it was going to be done.  She was upset that it took so long, that her friend said she wouldn’t mind doing it but just couldn’t believe how badly she was treated and went on and on and on.

My tongue is a little sore today from biting it so hard and not interjecting.  I so badly wanted to say, “I’m sorry you didn’t respect her enough to pay for her services but yet you expected to be first on the list?”  Really? Seriously??

Sometimes for my friends I will offer to help them out, I don’t have a problem doing this, I offer it willingly.  Yet there are times that they tend to forget that I actually run a business, I get paid for what I do and I have clients that must come first.

I had one friend that I said I would help and after I sent the revised resume I received not a thank you, but rather snide comments.  Things to the effect of it could have been done in a day and that they could have bullshitted it themselves.  That will be the last favor I offer that “friend”.

As a business owner and service provider please let me offer a few things to keep in mind before you ask a friend to assist you out of the goodness of their own heart:

  • They are a professional, they get paid for their services – respect that.
  • Thank them.  Even if you do not like the end result respect that they took time out of their day and away from paying clients to help you – again, out of the goodness of their heart.
  • Remember no matter how good of friends you are it does not put you on the top of the list.  Spouses and significant others are exempt from this rule – but that is only because it will affect the personal relationship in a whole host of ways that we just wont get into here.
  • Don’t degrade their work.  I encourage my clients to challenge me and openly tell me what they do not like during the preparation stages.  I certainly do not need snide comments from someone that isn’t viewing or treating me as a professional.
  • Do not try to leverage your personal friendship for your personal gain.  It is disrespectful. Not only might you end up with a lower quality project – you might end up with one less friend.
  • Respect the fact that their schedule is client driven – paying client driven.  Sometimes that means you get bumped from the top of the list.  Deal with it.
  • Don’t complain if you are asked to help in some way.  If you are redesigning your kitchen then for goodness sakes give them ideas, see if you can pick up any material, ask them what you can do to help them.

I once heard of a guy that went up to his doctor neighbor as he was walking up his driveway after coming home from work and asked him to review his x-rays.  Seriously??

Sometimes people will not come right out and ask, they do it in a more round about way so the professional friend almost feels compelled to help.  Don’t use your friendship to manipulate your friend.  Again, disrespectful.

If you are asking because you need something and do not have the availability to pay the full price of services, there is a way that you can help your friend in return.  Give recommendations.  Bringing them a few more clients is a wonderful way to repay their services and kindness.

In listening to the woman complain about her designer friend it did not make me NOT want to use the designer.  Actually, I felt sorry for the designer.  What a nice person giving their time and expertise to such a lousy friend.  I almost wanted to ask for their name just to I could help even out karma and see if there was any one I could refer her to as a potential client that would actually pay for and respect her services.

I didn’t only because I was afraid the bitchy side of me would come out.

Just remember, your friends should be your friends because of the value that they bring to your life and this should have nothing to do with getting free professional services.

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

http://www.CareerPolish.com

Be Clear In Your Head Before You Open Your Mouth

It is a running joke in my family that I am terrible about asking for help.  I hate it, absolutely hate it.  I had an amazing father that instilled in me that I could do pretty much anything I wanted to do on my own with my own little two hands and when I put my mind to it.  This of course came back to bite him in the butt a couple of times – but the lesson stuck a little too well at times.

It’s a thing with me and it is something that I actively work on – ok, I try at least.  I can’t tell you the number of times that my son has given the whole eye-rolling-sigh-at-his-mother-because-she’s-being-stubborn thing; like walking in on me climbing up on the countertops to reach the top shelf of the cabinet.  I’ve five foot – cut me some slack.  Every time the conversation goes like this:

Me: “Umph” – that’s the noise I make when I climb up on the counter

Son: “What are you doing?” – along with a sigh

Me: “Just getting something out of the cabinet.”

Son: “Why didn’t you ask me to get it?” along with an eyeroll

Me: “Because I can do it.”

Son: “You’re going to hurt yourself” along with sigh and eyeroll

Me: “No I’m not! – Umph” the sound of me getting down from the counter

Son: “I’m right here, why didn’t you just ask me?”

Me: “Because I can do it myself!”

I really hope I never do hurt myself climbing up and down off counters because he would never let me hear the end of it – but the point is he is there and not only fully capable of helping but offering to do so….and yet I still don’t ask.

Professionally I learned to stop climbing on counters and ask for help.  The asking was not the hardest part – it was knowing what I was asking for that was the killer.

So many times people want to ask for help in job searching or building business but they have the critical steps mixed up.  Most people think it is:

Step One: Open mouth

Step Two: Ask for help

Wrong!

The successful strategy is:

Step One: Figure out what you want and need

Step Two: Open mouth

I do my fair share of networking and I normally try to find out as much as I can about the other person that I am talking to at that moment.  Some typical questions I might ask after finding out who they are and what they do are: “Do you specialize in any certain markets?” or “Who are your best clients” or “Who would you like to be connected to?”

If you cannot clarify these things then I cannot help you.  I need direction, I need a point of clarity, I need for you to tell me exactly what you need and how I can help you.  It is ok – do not think that you are being pushy or self-centered.  Networking is about building connections that result in relationships.

Now sometimes you may attend a networking event, formal or informal, and you may not be talking to someone as nice as me who asks you what you need and you find that you need to ask for yourself.  No worries.  Again, that’s what it is all about.

But before you ask for help you better be able to explain it as you would to a six year old.  The clearer you can be the more I can help you.

For example if I told you that I wanted to meet people who work for colleges and universities this would leave you lost in a sea of academia.  It is too vague, leaves too much ground uncovered.  Do I mean advisors, teachers, students, or the cleaning crew?

It is not your job to assume.  It is my job to clarify in order that you have to do as little thinking as possible.  The less thinking you have to do the more successful I will be in getting the connection.

Let’s go back to my college/university example.  If I had said the above statement to you I doubt you would be able to come up with an immediate connection; and if you did there is a pretty low probability that it would be beneficial for me.  Why?  Because I gave you no parameters.  It is like shooting a fly in the dark.

Now, let’s say that instead I told you that I was looking to meet administrators or people who are responsible for programs at colleges and universities that I can partner with to facilitate resume classes for upcoming graduates.

Well looky there – all the information you need.  I have narrowed down the sea to a small, targeted stream and I have turned on the light to tell you why I want to meet them.  Tada!

Given this information you may have a name that immediately pops in your head and would be a good connection for me.  You can either give me that information at the time or if you want to go back to your office to make an introduction I have a much stronger reason and memory trigger to contact you to facilitate that connection.

Now, enough about me, what about you?  If you are looking for a job be sure to give me some parameters that help me keep you in mind.  Telling me you are looking for a job does absolutely nothing for me.  It makes you forgettable.  Sorry, but it does because quite frankly almost everyone knows someone who is looking for a job.  You get lost in the minutia of job seekers.

However, if you are a project manager who is looking to get back into a specific industry and with a company of a certain size then by all means give me this information.  You do two things: make it very clear to me what you are looking for and imbed key words in my brain which I will associate with you.  Next week if I happen to talk to a business associate in that industry your name will more likely pop into my head because you were clear and those key words.  I have inadvertently become a member of your personal sales force.

The more clear you are in your communication the more others can help you.  Some people have the thought that people don’t want to help.  What I find is that they actually do what to help, but they don’t know how because you have sent them adrift in the middle of an ocean without any direction.

Be clear and you can build an amazing personal sales force.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

http://www.CareerPolish.com

You Can’t Fix People With Duct Tape

I’m a fixer.  By nature, by profession by instinct – I am a fixer.  It has taken me a long time to realize that this part of me is not a curse but rather a blessing – but the struggle is learning how to use it effectively.  Oh, if only you could use duct tape on people – there is nothing that can’t be fixed with duct tape – or a safety pin.  Safety pins are amazing little things.

Normally I write to people wanting to make a change, but there is another side of that – the people that support you.  Often times I will talk to people who want to know how they can help their friend or loved one through a difficult time of transition or progression.  Today is all about the support.

You may think you know exactly what your person needs to do to break through and move on but the worst thing in the world you can do it to tell them to do it your way period.  Not only does it not help them develop the tools they need, the confidence within themselves but it also takes away their hope.  Nothing is worse than taking away someone’s hope – nothing.

It is so hard to see someone we care about struggling and not able to see the entire picture and it is at these times we want to step in and say, “Just do this” or “Stop doing that”.  It might be a quick and easy way to fix the immediate problem and they may get what they want but internally they know they did not do it.  They followed someone else’s actions.  At some point it is very likely that inside there will be a little voice that tells them that they still can’t fix their own problems and are hopeless on their own.

My mother by example taught me a very valuable lesson when I first had my son.  She never offered her opinions or thoughts unless I asked for them.  I’m also a very stubborn and proud kinda girl so often times being so young it was difficult for me to ask; yet she stood her ground and did not offer any advice unless asked.  I learned two valuable things: that sometimes you need to swallow your pride to get help and secondly advice was more easily accepted when given upon request rather than given freely.

When struggling later in life with a very difficult issue I was blessed to have a good friend there by my side who was able to help me at every step by asking me, “what do you need from me?”  Never making judgments as to how I was handling certain situations, how I responded to events or even why I put up certain walls around me – just simply accepting who I was and asking how they could be there for me at that very moment.  One of the biggest things that helped was being able to have someone there who would listen to me without trying to fix it for me.

When in transition or progression your person has a whole range of feelings that they are dealing with and sometimes are not even able to verbalize them for themselves.  Do not expect them to be able to share everything with you or even explain why certain things upset them one day and not the next.  Change is hard and even it if is a good change it is met with resistance – it doesn’t always make sense but there it is.

What your person needs the most is patience, a listening ear and for you to know what works best for them at the time they need it.  Sometimes they need a swift kick in the butt – knowing your person as well as you do you will know when to employ this tactic.  Sometimes they just need you to listen to them without giving the thumbs up or thumbs down.

It is as hard on the support person as it is the person in transition because you only know half the story at best – remember the trouble in expressing all the internal crap?  There is another important aspect that you need to keep in mind too – you do have a voice in this.

Sometimes our people come to us and want our help but they make it impossible for us to help them.  Think about a time when your person came to you and said they are miserable and want to do something and they need your help.  But then every time you talk about it the whole conversation is a pity party or a poor me and any time you offer any words resembling support they shoot it down.  This sucks, and it can suck the life out of you.  This is when you have the right – as your own person – to air your feelings.  It is perfectly acceptable to tell your person that you want to help but you really do not think they want it or you cannot provide the help they need.  If you feel all they want is someone to vent to you can do that but only to a certain point and you can draw the line at when enough is enough.

I had a friend years ago that I adored, she was funny, smart and a beautiful soul.  Unfortunately she still held a lot of anger and resentment from her divorce.  As our friendship grew it the complaining, hatred, anger and pitying became more and more intense and frequent to the point that an entire evening was consumed with her sarcastic or sad commentary on how things should be different.  It got to the point that I had to tell her that as much as I cared about her I could not hang out with her any more.

She wasn’t ready to move forward and I wasn’t ready to go through the emotional war zone every single time we were together.  Within a couple of weeks after we stopped hanging out I could not believe how much lighter my mood was because I was no longer saddled with her crap.  Sometimes people do not want to let go of their crap – that does not mean that you need to take it on and own it.  Sometimes you need to limit it or eliminate it all together.

Be honest with your person because in the end they may not realize that they are clinging to their crap so tightly that they are not allowing anything else to come into their world and your putting limits on it or having to walk away may be the wake up call they need.  It may be the wake up call you need, too.  You have your own stuff you are dealing with in your own world and you have other people so is it really fair for you to take on all of theirs?  No.

It is a fine line between helping, fixing and needing to walk away – the best way to determine which way to go is to be honest with your person and yourself.  Ask how they need you, offer what you can and be prepared to give as much to yourself in walking away if necessary.

As a fixer one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn is sometimes I can help, sometimes I can’t, sometimes I have to walk away and some people like being broke.

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

http://www.CareerPolish.com

Fixers Beware Of Emotional Poaching

My best friend told me on more than one occasion that I am a “fixer”. I can’t help it, I come from a long line of fixers – it is genetic. You have to understand that fixers are, on the most part, people who want to help others; giving something unconditionally in order that the other party can benefit. It makes us feel good, valued and it becomes instinctual.

We have this weird radar when we detect a challenge, problem or issue our little alarm system goes into action and somewhere off in the distance the Mighty Mouse songs begins….“Here I come to save the day…” We have no control over this. Kind of like how dogs can sniff out a thunderstorm before anyone else – we do that with problems. We can’t explain it and we are not always conscious of it, we just do it.

The one thing that fixers don’t understand is that our help is not always wanted. And it is not like we set out to fix the entire world’s problems; again, it is instinctual. Sometimes we just dive right in and don’t even realize that we are wandering in woods where we are not wanted. Kind of like poaching, but it is emotional poaching. We really don’t mean any harm.

Having this tendency is great for my client’s; I am able to let that instinct take over and run with it. However, I have to continually monitor myself during conversations to make sure this pesky little tendency doesn’t creep out and somehow take over. I have realized that not everyone wants my help; and have therefore learned (and continue to learn) how to just shut up.

When I hear others bring up a challenge or my radar goes off, I have to stop myself before I speak. I have this little internal conversation with myself: “just listen, are they venting or asking for help?” If it is a venting session then shut up and if they are asking for help then offer to help and let it be their choice.

My son taught me the difference between venting and asking for help. When he used to vent I would immediately jump in to fix – combine fixer with motherhood and it goes into overdrive. One day he told me that he just wanted to vent, not to have me fix anything. Through trial and error we developed a communication that if he does not make it clear at the beginning that he is venting then I ask so we can avoid unpleasant conversations.

Of course, being a fixer is a continual challenge and as much as I try to keep a reign on it, there are times that it’s a sneaky little trait and just jumps out.

This weekend I ran into a friend of mine, a very successful mortgage broker. When I was preparing for a talk on 30 second elevator pitches I had a discussion with him and he told me he only introduces himself as a Mortgage Broker. I hate titles and it made me cringe, but I listened and he was very helpful in helping me prepare my speech.

This weekend we were talking and I thanked him again for his assistance and then it happened. The fixer side blurted out, “Please let me help you with your elevator speech.” Or something similar to this. I heard the words coming out and couldn’t stop them. Lucky for me my friend is very sweet and just smiled and shook his head at me. I immediately apologized and he told me it was ok, he knew me. Whew!

If you are a fixer, like me, you must be very well aware of this tendency. In networking you will meet lots of people and your radar may go into overdrive. This is a time that you must stop and reign in it, think about if people are truly wanting help, asking for help, simply giving a speech or trying to make small talk. Don’t waste your powers in unwanted woods.

Another important point is to realize why you are poaching. Is it truly to help someone else or is there a desired result that you personally want? This is very prominent in dating. Men think women want to change them; honestly we don’t – it is just some stupid unconscious action. Kind of like baseball players grabbing their jewels and spitting. They don’t even realize they are doing it, they just do it in the course of the game. Same thing. But we grow out of it or at least it lessens over time, eventually.

My point is, if you know someone who is going through a transition or difficult time you may want to help them because you care and therefore you offer assistance in every manner at every opportunity. But beware – they may not want you help period.

They may not be ready to accept the help or maybe they just want to do it on their own. Whatever the reason, just back off and let your friend be. Letting them know that you are there for them and if they need you that you are there in a heartbeat is enough. If they choose to let you help great, but it is their choice. If not, don’t take it personally. They are not saying they do not want you to be a part of your life; they just don’t want you poaching in their woods.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Coach-Strategist
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.
http://www.CareerPolish.com

Kindness Should Not Be The Exception

My friend is moving out of state, and I am happy for her, but not happy about it at all. I am going to miss my friend so in a selfish way I am not happy; however, the job that moved her husband out of state is a great opportunity for him. So even with my little bit of selfishness I wish them the absolute best.

This past weekend I went over to help her pack and I did it for selfish a reason – I wanted to be able to hang out with my friend. This poor woman is working a full time job, trying to transition items there, packing a house, trying to put it on the market all while her husband is in another state. She is doing this ALL on her own.

Personally, I consider this Supergirl nomination material. Oh, and when her husband says things like, “It doesn’t seem like you have gotten a lot done” for her not to use her super powers and fly through the phone line to konk him on the head further elevates her to Superwoman, sans the Linda Carter outfit.

I was talking to another friend about the weekend and the packing – mostly how I was glad it was not me. I’m great at packing stuff up but the unpacking is another issue. My friend told me that they thought it was really nice of me to help and said that most people would not do that. That thought stuck in my brain for a while and has been simmering.

Why not? Sure, I had lots of my own stuff to do, but guess what, it was still there when I got back and it did not get any worse. However, in a couple of weeks my friend won’t be here. I did not want to miss an opportunity to hang out and have some giggles before she left. Oh sure, I could do like many people and ask her to meet for lunch or drinks, but this woman has NO time.

Another thing that has been simmering about that comment is that I don’t want to be elevated to some great person just because I helped a friend. After all, isn’t that what friends do? Have we lost or perverted the concept of friendship so much so that in lending a helping hand is heralded as extraordinary? That, to me, is sad.
That is not how I grew up, nor is it the philosophy of the people closest to me. Anyone in my best friend’s small town knows her because she is the first to offer a hand and the last to leave. That’s how she is and has always been. She does not even think twice about offering. She is a great role model for her kids.

When I was married we had an elderly couple move in across the street. One weekend they had at least a literal ton of landscaping rocks delivered and dumped right in their driveway. My husband at the time promptly went into our garage, grabbed a wheelbarrow, shovel and gloves and walked across the street. To our surprised neighbor he asked “Where are we moving these?” and he tirelessly helped move every bit. Ten years later when those neighbors moved they still remembered that gesture with gratitude and amazement.

Occasionally it makes the news about people demonstrating acts of kindness, almost like a freak of nature. A majority of the news is comprised of the terrible deeds we do to each other. And the saddest part of all, it has become commonplace to not only read these stories, but also to not be shocked by them.

Perhaps I am a bit Pollyanna today as I sit and think wouldn’t it be wonderful if the acts of kindness were the norm and the wrongdoing was the shocking occasional story? Call me crazy, but I think it is possible. Maybe if we just started doing the right thing, just one little act of kindness every day it could start. These acts would be lessons to our children without saying a word, lessons to our neighbors, lessons to strangers.

And when you do these small acts of kindness for goodness sakes don’t ask for your cookie. People need to show kindness to others because it is something that helps us all survive. Kindness is as important to some as air, food and water. Do it because it is the right thing to do not because you think you should get a reward. Kindness does reward but the value depends upon the intention.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Transition Strategist & Coach
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.
www.CareerPolish.com