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Don’t just ask for help – offer it too

life_preserverI’ve done dozens of presentations for job support groups. That’s how I got into this whole personal branding thing.

Sometimes people are desperately looking for a lifeline, for hope in their job search. Some people in these groups have been out of work for a long time, many for more than a year. And of course, job prospects right now are bleak.

My message is pretty simple, if you’re looking for a job, you have to make it easy to find you. And I show people how to do that.

Some people take my tips and techniques and run with them. I’ve had several people tell me that they’ve found themselves moving from the back of the pack to the front page on a Google search of their name.

My other message is also simple: YOU can do this. It doesn’t take technical skills, and I’ve already packaged the concepts so you just have to follow my guidelines.

Frequently people ask me for more help. I’d like to help everyone, but I simply can’t. And I’m generally unwilling to help people who don’t first try to follow my instructions. Some people want everything handed to them, and there’s a place for that too, but it involves paying somebody to do the work they won’t do.

But clearly, people who know how to do something have an obligation to help others less fortunate – jobless people who are asking for a little bit of your time to help them get going. It’s good to help people, and I try to do it as often as I can. (Look at my speaking calendar, and you’ll see that I do frequent presentations, and almost all of these are pro bono.)

Let me tell you how to succeed with me, and I think you’ll find this works with almost everyone you meet. If you ask me for something (my time, my advice, my knowledge), offer something in exchange. It can be as simple as “hey, what can I do to help you?”.

I know that some people would say “what could I possibly offer you, you’re the expert on personal branding,” but that just doesn’t float. Everybody has their weak spots, their down moments, their needs – both public and private.

The larger message here is take the time to think about what you can offer in exchange before you make a request.

handshakeLet’s take this out of the current domain. I used this exact principal consistently in my career. Whenever I went into a business venture with another company it was always based on what I could offer in exchange. The basis of any good deal is that both sides benefit – ask any top sales person if you don’t believe me.

The same holds true when you contact the people in your networks. I found out the hard way that people don’t react well to “hey, I’m out of a job, what can you do to help me.” Try something else: “I’d like to get together for coffee – let’s catch up on what we’re both doing.” Try hard, you’ll come up with something even better.

So remember, nobody likes a take, take, take person. What’s in it for me doesn’t fly. What’s in it for us works. And don’t be lazy… If you haven’t done your homework about me – so you can relate to me personally somehow – then you’re going to get less from me because I won’t engage with you. If you don’t know me, and you want me to help you succeed in your job search or consulting engagement, figure out why I should want to do that.

These are important lessons to take with you anywhere in life and in your career. I would never think of going into a job interview unless I’d done enough homework about a company – and if possible the interviewers – as possible. I always go in with a plan for how I could help the company immediately and long-term. The plan may be off-base, but it shows that I cared enough about the human being sitting across from me to figure out what’s important to him/her.

Posted in Personal branding.

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