Monday, March 13, 2017

Need Something? Ask!

I started this year out by taking on a new challenge. I took on the role of teaching an Entrepreneurship course at a local college. My biggest hope is that they are learning as much from me as I am from them.

One of my biggest insights thus far is the importance of 'the ask'. I offered to connect through social media with students and got hit immediately with requests. I offered to review their resumes and cover letters before they applied for internships and got requests for help. I always make myself available at least an hour before class to address any questions they may have, whether about the course material or anything else I can help with. Some seek me out. During class some ask questions about what they don't understand. However, not everyone connected, asked for help or asked questions.

What's interesting to me though is how this willingness to ask for what you need and want translates out into grades. For the most part all of my 'askers' are doing well.  The non-askers? There is some variability.  I have a couple I've never heard from who are doing well. For the most part though, those that aren't asking anything of me also tend to be those that are struggling.

Why wait for your paper to be graded to discover you didn't understand?
Why struggle on your own if you have someone willing to provide you with support?

This isn't limited to my classroom. The 'Askers' in life tend to do better. They certainly seem to get more. They get the flight upgrades when travelling, they get the discounts, the deals, the opportunities, the extra attention. Often we resent them for it but the plain hard truth is that all those things were also available to us - if only we'd asked.

I have people new to starting their own business that seek me out for my insights on how to get started. They ask me questions so that they can get up and running faster and easier, avoiding the pitfalls I experienced. They want to learn through my mistakes, avoiding having to make them themselves. Smart. I, however, started my business making all of those mistakes because I was reluctant to ask. For me it was a combination of being afraid to approach anyone with my questions lest I be rejected and a reluctance to admit I didn't know. This combination cost me time and effort that I could have used to become `successful` faster.

Some of my students though? They get this. They want the help and the shortcuts. They don't think it makes them look foolish to ask but, rather, that they would feel foolish by not asking. They aren't looking for me to do everything for them but they are looking to tap into the experience I have and to use it while it's available to them. Their mantra?
It can't hurt to ask.
Simple. Yet so difficult for some of us to implement. We worry we'd seem pushy or presumptuous. We worry we'll appear ignorant. We're afraid that asking for something makes us vulnerable, or that it is a sign of weakness. In short, we are poor advocates for ourselves.

What's wrong with asking for help or asking for something we want? What's wrong with asking for clarification or to connect or for the sale? People are far too busy today to second-guess our needs, they are struggling to identify and meet their own. You need something? Let them know. Ask for their insights. They can either help you or not but leave the choice to them rather than making it for them by never asking.

If not-asking hasn't been serving you well thus far in your career and life try giving asking a try. You want something? Ask. You need something? Ask. You don't understand something? Ask. What's the worst thing that could happen? You don't get what you're after, which is pretty much where you are right now.

This is my current lesson from college and one I'm going to start applying. Get ready world... I've got questions!

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