I had a chat with a professor who has researched organization theory. We had a great conversation about social networks and their impact on venture capital and entrepreneurship. To demonstrate the power of networks, he does an exercise with his MBA students: He has them write out a professional goal, why it’s important, and what they need help with. They then present it to the rest of the class. The results always blow the students away. They’re able to make significant progress toward their goal by clearly articulating what they want to do, why they want to do it, and what they need help with. Once classmates heard what was needed, they happily helped.
The professor said that many MBA students see asking for help as a weakness. This exercise helps them understand that asking for help is a great use of one’s network. Of course, you can’t just take. The best relationships are bidirectional—you must add value and help when asked.
I love this professor’s exercise and totally agree. People want to support people and things they believe in, but they don’t always know how. By laying it out clearly, you fill that gap and make it easier for them to help. Instead of hearing “Oh, that’s nice; I hope it works out for you,” you may get the intro that changes your trajectory. Never be afraid to ask for help. The downside to not asking someone for help can be orders of magnitude greater than the downside of asking someone for help!