How to ask for help

First of all, stop being embarrassed about asking for help.  Everyone needs help once in a while.  Some people need an intro to a prospect or a partner, others want an opinion on a project they’re working on while still more need advice on a decision they’re trying to make.  There’s literally no one that doesn’t need help at some point in their life.  So stop being ashamed of needing help.

The real question you should ask yourself is “am I giving as much as I am taking?”  That is, when people ask you for help, do you respond?  When a friend asks you for advice, do you listen?  Help isn’t a trading game.  It’s not a transaction where you give A in return for B.  Help is something you ask for when you need it and something you provide when you’re asked.  If you’re doing one but not the other, we may have a problem.

And if your answer was “I’m not really giving as much as I’m asking”, it’s not too late to change.  Go ahead, ask for help but also take the time to offer it in other places.  Help is all about paying it forward, even if your payment is a bit late.

What Are You Asking For?

The first thing to figure out is what you’re asking for.  Help needs to be specific.  You’re asking someone to do something for you and it’s up to you to make it easy for them.  So rather than asking “Hey Bob, I need help on my job search” or “hey Bob, do you know anyone”, you should do the research and ask Bob for a specific item.  It’s not Bob’s responsibility to figure out who you should talk to, it’s yours.  So for example, if I need help with a job search, I shouldn’t just ask for general help, I should say:

Hey, would you mind helping me with my job search by helping me increase my visibility?

Make it specific

Yes, I know you need three different things but if you ask for three different things I’m going to be overwhelmed.  Decide what is the most important thing you need help with and ask for that.  Don’t ask a customer to both refer you to a new prospect AND give you a testimonial.  Ask for the one thing that’s most important for you and that’s it.  When you start asking people for a list of items, they stop seeing this as a nice thing to do and start seeing it as someone trying to monopolize their time.

Again, let’s use my previous example.  Yes, I would like people to help increase my visibility for my job search but that’s too general.  What am I asking them to do?  Do I want them to talk to people about me?  Send out my resume?  These are pretty heavy duty asks and not very specific.  Let’s make things specific by adding a request:

Hey, would you mind helping me with my job search by helping me increase my visibility?  I’d really love it if you shared my previous LinkedIn article.

Why should they do this for you?

Yes, people want to help, but helping you risks their social capital.  What if Bob introduces you to their CMO friend and you ask them a bunch of nonsense questions?  That’s going to reflect poorly on Bob.  When you’re asking for help, you’re often asking people to put their own reputation on the line.  In order to do that you need to have a good reputation and you need to make it clear to them what you’re going to do with this help.  What are you going to ask this CMO that you’re being introduced to?  What are you trying to sell them?  Ultimately, if folks are going to help you they want to know that you’re worth helping.  Make sure the ask is reasonable and doesn’t risk their reputation.  For example:

Hey, would you mind helping me with my job search by helping me increase my visibility?  I’d really love it if you shared my previous LinkedIn article.  It’s a mid length post about starting a job search.  Applicable to everyone I think and with some good ideas for those just starting a job search.  I wrote it out of my own past experiences and I think it could be helpful to a wide variety of folks.

Make it easy

People love to help, but you know what they love even more?  Being lazy.  The easier you make it for them to help you, the more likely they are to do it.  You want them to introduce you to someone?  Send them an email with all the details that they can simply forward on.  Don’t ask them to craft that email themselves because they won’t.  In a similar vein, if I want people to share my previous article, it’s on me to make it easy for them to find and share it.  So:

Hey, would you mind helping me with my job search by helping me increase my visibility?  I’d really love it if you shared my previous LinkedIn article.  It’s a mid length post about starting a job search.  Applicable to everyone I think and with some good ideas for those just starting a job search.  I wrote it out of my own past experiences and I think it could be helpful to a wide variety of folks.  The article is right here.  All you need to do is take the URL and share it, preferably on LinkedIn but anywhere else works.

Thank you!

That’s all there is to it.

Oh and if you enjoyed this article, would you mind helping me with my job search by helping me increase my visibility?  I’d really love it if you shared my previous LinkedIn article.  It’s a mid length post about starting a job search.  Applicable to everyone and with some good ideas for those just starting a job search.  I wrote it out of my own past experiences and it would be helpful to a wide variety of folks.  The article is right here.  All you need to do is take the URL and share it, preferably on LinkedIn but anywhere else works.

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