Friday Challenge: If You Don’t Ask, The Answer Is Always No

How to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone When Contacting Mentors.

It’s Friday, time for our end of the week challenge in which we issue small, ‘outside-your-comfort-zone’ activities for the weekend. Each Friday Challenge is designed to remind you that much of what you’re looking to unlock and transform about your career and life is already at your finger tips.

This Friday Challenge has two goals. The first is to recognize the support we have around us, whether it’s someone in your network or outside of it. The second is to overcome your fear of reaching out. We all have people that inspire us. This weekend, reach out to one (or several) such persons with something you feel “stuck” on.

What tends to hold us back? It may be as much about the fear of receiving a response as it is about receiving none at all. “Is my challenge worthy of their time?” is as genuine a fear as that of being rejected. But here’s a secret: Your potential mentors are not as unapproachable as you think they are. Generosity feels good! (We once emailed Arianna Huffington and received a response within 24 hours!)

At Your Project X, we regularly reach out to folks who never cease to amaze us with their generosity. (Take a look at our mentors here).

More often than not, the people you look up to enjoy feeling helpful and giving advice. This is our secret weapon! So whether you’re reaching out to a VP at your company, a leader in another career field you’re curious about, or someone like Seth Godin, all you need to do is take that (thoughtful) first step.

Here is how:

1. Consider your platform of communication.

How many emails do you think your potential mentor gets a day? 100? 300? 500? Decide if this is the best way to reach out. Recently we received a phone call from a former participant in our program. She thought reaching out by phone would elicit a faster response. It did!

2. Authenticity leads the way.

Don’t fein knowledge if you’re looking for support in understanding something. Be vulnerable. Ask for what you want, but also think about what value your request is to the person you’re contacting. Reaching out is always a two way street.

3. The subject line.

This is your first impression. Be transparent and authentic. For example: ‘Willing to give career advice to a kindred spirit?’ or ‘I’m stuck trying build my community, moment for advice?’ or ‘Totally in love with you, call me!’ (ok, not this last one — ever.)

4. The content.

Put yourself in their shoes. They’re not ready for your life story yet. Brevity and authenticity rule the day here. We like to start with a short sentence on something of theirs that resonated with us, then move in with our ask.

5. Make your ask small.

Do you have 15 minutes to talk this through with me? Can we have a 10 minute Skype chat?

6. Don’t limit yourself to one person.

Try to send out 3–5 requests. This is your way to experiment and see what works best (hint: don’t do it the same way each time).

Reach out, be thoughtful, and you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised. If not, reach out to us — we’ll absolutely follow up with you.