I get approached regularly with requests for career advice. I get asked all sorts of questions but they tend to be variations on the following:
- How do I break into Human Resources?
- How do I use social media to build my brand?
- What help can you give me to find a job?
- Victorio, why are you so cool?
I admit that the last one, while my favorite, is false! The others aren’t.
I can sympathize; I’ve been in that position, one where I felt clueless about an important question I needed answers to, or a choice that I needed to make. As a result, I do my best to help people out. Usually I start with an email exchange and then if they’re comfortable we’ll move on to a phone conversation. If they live or plan to be in New York City then we can meet in person. Through this process of communication I’ve helped people figure out next steps in their professional lives, as well as developed some great relationships.
As I mentioned, I’ve felt clueless. I still feel that way sometimes. I don’t have all of the answers, nor do I want to. Having challenging questions to answer is part of the learning process as a professional. For me, it drives me to better understand and articulate my passion for Human Resources, along with how I can support my clients in the best possible fashion.
I also recognize that, while I consider myself smart, capable, and creative, I’m not the smartest, most capable, or creative Human Resources professional in the world. As Bill Joy, computer scientist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, once said:
“No matter how many smart people there are within your firm, remember that there are far more smart people outside your firm.”
It’s important to remember this. Even if you yourself are an expert in your respective field, there are others out there just as capable, if not more so. And in this era where top talent and resources can be accessed from almost anywhere, it pays to recognize when to reach beyond your known environment for advice and expertise.
This is part of what leaders do–gather intelligence, as well as assess its quality and relevance to the issue at hand, in order to make informed decisions. Without the ability to ask, as well as the willingness to reach out to those within and outside a person’s comfort zone, people may not have the relevant insight, perspective, or information necessary to make good decisions.
Competitive advantage can come from timely access to information and expertise, not necessarily being the source of it. Approaching people for help isn’t a sign of weakness, neither is asking questions. When done correctly, it demonstrates an ability to seek out and make quality decisions based on the best information available.
How do you ask for help?