How to ask for help

When I was 17, I learned that the fast-food company I worked at had a scholarship program. The deadline was soon, and I needed a detailed letter of recommendation from my manager. Given the scope of the requirement and the deadline, it felt like a lot to ask.

I decided to write up the letter myself. I brought it to my manager and told her that I needed a letter of recommendation and that I had already written a draft. If she liked and agreed with everything it said, she could sign the bottom and we’d be good to go. Otherwise, she could take it home, make changes, or rewrite it, using mine as an example.

She decided to just sign it. I submitted the application and was awarded the scholarship later that year. It was even reported in the local newspaper. I couldn’t have done it without her help.

If you’re doing anything ambitious, you’re going to need help. You might need advice, coaching, feedback, connections, referrals or a host of other things. People love to help, but it’s hard when we force them to make decisions. So don’t.

Make it as easy as possible to help. Give them the perfect set up, and let them be the hero.

Alley Oop