“Asking for AIR – Advice, Insights, and Recommendations” by Marc Miller


Frequently, when people use their contacts to try to change jobs or careers, they make one of several mistakes:

– They spend the whole time talking about themselves
– They spend the whole time asking questions the other person doesn’t feel comfortable answering
– They squander the opportunity and forget to meet their primary objectives.

How you present yourself to the people who are helping you furthers your personal brand. If you make one or more of the mistakes above, then you’ve communicated that your personal brand is self-centered, unprofessional or scattered. Whereas if you’re focused, clear and appropriate, that’s what your interviewee is going to walk away saying about you.

Let’s say you are looking for a new position. You want to check out this hot new startup. You did your homework and received an introduction to one of the managers, who we will call Jeffrey.
Do you ask for an informational interview? No…..

What you want to do is ask for A – I – R. You will ask for advice, insights and recommendations.

A – Advice– When you ask for advice it is a compliment. Rarely will anyone ever turn you down when you ask advice. In an e-mail to Jeffrey, ask for 30 minutes of his time to ask for some advice. It could be about how to pursue a position at the company or to learn more about the company. The magic word is “advice!”

I – Insights– Once you meet Jeffrey ask for his insights into how the company functions, the culture and management structure. You might ask him how he was hired or does he like his job. You will want to ask very open ended questions to give Jeffrey to talk. This is NOT ABOUT YOU.

R – Recommendations – This is the part that many people forget. Ask what should I do next? Is there anyone else you would recommend I talk with? Can you introduce me to anyone else within the organization?

You will ask Jeffrey questions and only talk about yourself when asked. It is not about you!
This is all about building the relationship. Asking for advice, insights and recommendations is a great way to initiate and cultivate a lasting relationship.

You have not asked for help to get a job, but you have asked for help in understanding the organization and for further networking opportunities. You are networking to build relationships and not to find a job. The opportunity to interview for a position will come later after you have established relationships.

-Jeffrey will likely provide an introduction to at least one person, if not two, if you made it clear you were interested in him and his perspective.
-You will ask for advice, insights and recommendations from each of the individuals that Jeffrey made introductions.
-When each meeting is complete who you gonna call? Jeffrey.

Well maybe not call, but at least send him an e-mail and let him know how it went. You will also tell him if you received any more introductions. People love to know that they’re helping and that the time they spent with you had some value. They also appreciate knowing that you’re grateful and recognize the time and effort they contributed to your career search.
Now, if a position opens up at this hot startup, Jeffrey will think of you. If you made a favorable impression, he might even call you before the position is posted.
I was hired exactly this way at my last two tech startup companies.

Marc Miller is the founder of Career Pivot which helps Baby Boomers design careers they can grow into for the next 30 years. Marc authored the book Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers, published in January 2013, which has been featured on Forbes.com, US News and World Report, CBS Money-Watch and PBS’ Next Avenue. Marc has made six career pivots himself, serving in several positions at IBM in addition to working at Austin, Texas startups, teaching math in an inner-city high school and working for a local non-profit. Learn more about Marc and Career Pivot by visiting the Career Pivot Blog or follow Marc on Twitter or Facebook.

Read more and connect with Marc here: http://www.personalbrandingblog.com/asking-for-air-advice-insights-and-recommendations/

2 Words That Drive Bosses Crazy


by Geoffrey James

About a year ago, I pointed out that the words “I will try…” mean that person using those words is secretly planning to fail. (And, yes, I did quote Yoda in the post.)

Earlier today, a colleague of mine (the management consultant Sylvia LaFair) pointed out two additional words that also guarantee failure:

“Yeah, but…”

Bosses hate hearing those two words because employees use them to reject good advice that they don’t want to hear. It works like this:

– The employee comes in with a complaint.
– The boss explains how to address the problem.
– The employee says “Yeah, but…” followed by a reason why that solution won’t work.
– The boss explains how to overcome that objection.
– The employee says “Yeah, but…” followed by a reason why THAT won’t work.
– Etc.

The back-and-forth continues until one of two things happens:

– The employee wears the boss down to the point where there’s no longer an action plan and both the employee and the boss are helpless. Failure is now inevitable.
– The boss gets frustrated and says, “Just do what I say, dammit” and the employee feels resentful and angry, and takes action half-heartedly. Failure is now inevitable.

Neither of those outcomes is ideal. Fortunately, there’s an easy way for bosses to avoid the “Yeah, but…” syndrome:

1. Get the entire complaint on the table.

When an employee comes in with a complaint, don’t leap immediately to providing your advice, even if the solution seems obvious to you. Instead, ask a few questions that flesh out the complaint, especially questions that surface how the employee feels about the situation. Examples:

– When you think about this what else comes in your mind?
– What drove you to bring this to my attention right now?
– How would you feel if we could come up with a workable solution?

Getting everything on the table makes it more difficult for the complaint to dribble out in a series of “Yeah, but…” responses.

2. Ask the employee how he or she would solve the problem.

Note that the complaint is now a problem, which implies that there is a solution.

In most cases, simply getting the entire problem onto the table will help the employee to see what he or she needs to do to address the problem, even if it’s just something like “suck it up and move on.”

In some cases, the employee will say: “I don’t know what to do.” If this happens, respond with, “Well, if you did know what to do, what would that be?” This restatement of the question can often “short-circuit” self-defeating mental helplessness.

In either case, listen quietly to whatever the employee has to say, then move to Step 3.

If the employee remains stuck on “I don’t know,” say something like, “I can tell you’re really frustrated.” Then move to Step 3.

3. Provide your best advice.

Start by saying something like this: “I am now going to give you my opinion of how we should address this problem. After I give you my opinion, I’m willing to answer questions about how we might implement it, but that’s all.”

Provide your best advice, incorporating (when practical) whatever suggestions the employee surfaced in Step 2. Then ask: “Any questions?”

If the employee responds with implementation questions, answer them to the best of your ability.

However, if the employee starts explaining why your advice won’t work (aka “Yeah, but…”), hold up your hands, palm outwards, and say: “That’s my best advice. I’d like you to try it for [period of time] and if, after you’ve made that effort, we can revisit the issue then.”

End the meeting or move onto another topic.

Why This Works

The process above allows you and the employee to turn complaints into problems and find possible solutions to those problems. It draws upon the creativity of the employee both to understand the entire problem and to devise a workable solution.

Worst case, the process ends with “that’s my best advice.” While that’s functionally similar to “Just do what I say, dammit,” it’s less likely to create resentment, especially when the employee feels that he or she has been “heard out.”