Here is my most recent column in BizWest…Read it here or there!
Need Help? Ask!
Moving Your Career Forward Need Not be a Solo Journey
Independence is a highly valued quality in our society. We take great pride in being able to think and act for ourselves. There is definitely something to be said for being self-sufficient. However, sometimes we can be independent to a fault. When overused, this quality of independence quickly becomes a weakness.
I see this in my career counseling practice. People come to me after months or even years of trying to find a job “all by themselves.” Armed with a fresh résumé, a boost in self-confidence, a renewed process for connecting with others, and some expert interview coaching, they quickly begin getting solid offers.
Why do we struggle alone when help is often readily available? Sometimes we doubt that anyone can help us. Perhaps you reached out for help in the past and did not get the support you needed. We may imagine people are too busy. At the core, many of us believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness.
Achim Nowak, Founder and President of Influens, an international leadership training firm as well as the author of, “Infectious: How to Connect Deeply and Unleash the Energetic Leader Within,” believes we need to flip a switch in our brain so that we see asking for help as a sign of strength.”
Nowak adds, “The moment I ask for help, other forces of energy are being released that want me to be successful. I am giving others a chance to share in my success by offering their expertise and good will. These people then become my allies.”
Job seekers often express frustration about networking. It is easy to think, “Why would someone want to help me?”
According to Nowak, “Most people will feel honored to be asked to share their expertise. The request alone makes someone feels good. The moment we ask, collaborative goodwill kicks into motion. This kind of helping energy accelerates success – our own success and that of the person we ask.”
Still, asking for help takes skill and know-how. The first step is measuring our own level of readiness for help. If you lack confidence in your abilities, people will feel that.
We need to believe in ourselves before we enlist help from others. Nowak adds, “I don’t ask for help because I somehow feel deficient. I ask because it will enhance my experience and it will make the outcome stronger.”
The next step is being selective about who we go to for assistance. Are you looking for a friendly shoulder or could you benefit from professional coaching?
Turn to people who have a mindset of abundance. Abundant thinkers believe there is enough opportunity for everyone. Your success will not be seen as a threat but as a ripple of good in the world that leads to a greater overall experience for everyone.
Nowak advises, “Trust your instincts. It may be presumptuous to ask for significant help from someone you barely know. Assess the quality of the relationship as well as the nature of your request. Avoid going to people who are too busy or who don’t have the expertise to be of real help…choose your allies wisely.”
Finally, be very clear about your needs. In essence, consider how to help your helper. People want to be helpful and it is tremendously beneficial when you are specific in making a request. This sets others up to be successful in helping you.
When we sense someone’s passion and we clearly understand their needs, right away we begin offering ideas and resources. On the other hand, we can feel frustrated or irritated if someone is vague about what they need and we are unable to offer assistance.
For example, it is ineffective to ask for help “finding a job.” This is much too broad. A better approach is to say, “You have a lot of experience as a hiring manager. I am wondering if you would be willing to look at my résumé and give me some feedback about how to grab the attention of a recruiter?”
Nowak adds that, “Offering a clear context shows that you are focused and offers a framework for the conversation. Again, most people want to be helpful. When we are specific about our needs, we make it much easier for others to offer valuable assistance.”
When we follow these steps, asking for help is a way of acting on our dreams. It clarifies our position and shows that we are ready to move forward. We need to learn to ask for what we need and then give the world a chance to respond.
According to Nowak, “One of the ironies is that the more senior we are, the more pressure there is to act as if we know everything. Truly great leaders, at every level of their careers, are willing to be vulnerable. They recognize the value in considering multiple sources of information when making decisions.”
Stop and ask yourself, “What is one thing I need right now? What problem have I spent way too long trying to figure out on my own? What positive changes would occur if I were to receive the help I needed to move forward?”
Independence is a worthy value. Still, I would encourage you to tap into the power of connection. Consider how much farther you could go if you were to cultivate a greater sense of inter-connectedness with others.
Asking for help does not make you weak or needy. In fact, it does the very opposite of that. By asking for what you need, you actually become stronger, more informed, and more capable. We need each other. You can try to go it alone but I guarantee you will get much farther when you learn to ask for what you need and give generously of all that you have to offer.