How to make it easy for people to help you

Because of my work, my board role at an international business association, and my alum status from a European business school, I often receive or come across career/bizdev help requests from European and, though less frequently, Asian professionals, students and companies. At the risk of insulting someone, I’d like to offer some advice to the many non-Americans friends out there.

More often than not, the typical request that lands on my desktop goes something like this :

Dear Sir/Madam,
My names is ____________. I am a student/manager/entrepreneur/professor/engineer and I have created/studied/developed/built/designed/launched this beautiful piece of product/research/technology/service. I am looking for a job/partner/internship/customer/investor. Here’s a brochure/patent/website/
If you think this is interesting and you can help please reply. Thank you.
Sincerely,
______________

I am oversimplifying to make a point here. The point being that it is near to IMPOSSIBLE to do anythng meaningful with this request! If I am to help I need to:

  • Know what you can do
  • Know who you want to do it with/for
  • Be able to process a referral in the most economical way

So, before you ask for help, check your script against these simple rules:

  1. Tell what you do. Do you explain in a two line paragraph who you are or what your company does, what you top expertise is, your top achievements and skills. If not, write them down. In two lines.
  2. Tell what you want. Do you explain exactly what company you want to work for or with? Who you want to connect with? Be specific and succint. Limit your targets to one industry, one function, three companies. Give names and specifics.
  3. Make it easy to help you. Share all your contact information in a way that makes it easy to forward your request. Your Linkedin or Xing profile, your cell phone, Skype name, Twitter account, you name it. Those are formidable promotional tools. Include a one-paragraph, plain text description of your background, company or product. Something that can be easily pasted on an introduction email.

I have been there. I know how it feels when so many opportunities are in front of you. The temptation to “stay broad”, avoid specifics is strong, least you miss on the “dream job” or that “killer deal”… In the end the friction caused by a poorly focused request will cost you more than the value of any option you keep open.

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