October 30, 2017 ・ Written by T.J. Duane

The Art of the Ask

Make it an experience, not a transaction

The Art of the Ask

It can be tough to get a person’s attention nowadays. After all, your email is invariably buried in a pile of a hundred unread messages, which are hastily checked (and deleted) in between meetings. Yikes.

It’s even more difficult to get a response when you’re asking for help. The next time you sit down to write one of those “out-of-the-blue ask” emails, think about how you’re framing your request.

The golden rule of asking for help, and professional networking more broadly, is always make the other person feel valued, never make them feel used.

Let me give you an example of what I mean here — it’s the difference between:

“Hey, I need to hire some good engineers, who do you know?”


“I’m having some trouble recruiting engineers, and I hear you’ve built a great team. I would love to take you out for coffee and learn about how I could improve my process.”

The first approach is…direct. It doesn’t take much time to type or to read, or even to respond. It may seem efficient, but it won’t help you build a relationship. It’s completely focused on what you want to extract from the other person. Because of that, it’s unlikely to garner a response, and might even leave your contact feeling used. No bueno.

The second message might be longer — and the ask is greater — but it’s packed with positive messages. So what are the takeaways?

Be Vulnerable

It’s OK to admit you’re struggling with something. Everyone has faced professional challenges, and your contact is more likely to respond when they can relate to your situation.

Be Thoughtful

Recognizing a person’s relevant achievements isn’t just about buttering them up. It shows that you’re familiar with their work, and aren’t simply sending blanket emails to everybody in the industry.

Be Thankful

By offering to meet face-to-face (and buy that simple cup of coffee) you’re expressing appreciation from the outset. Even if the recipient doesn’t have time for that coffee break, they’ll be much more likely to write back. It’s the same psychology that drives people to donate more after they receive something (return address labels, anyone?).

All this is to say — put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How do you want to be treated when someone reaches out to you? How might your request make the other person feel? If you treat professional networking as less of a transaction and more of an experience— an interaction between two real people with real feelings — you’ll be much more likely to get the help you need.

If you are looking for help with something right now, go ahead and ask your extended professional community on BrightCrowd.