Steve Jobs “never met anyone who wouldn’t help me if I asked.” The challenge for most people? Approach someone you don’t know

An old African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone; If you want to go far, go together.”

You may not want to stay at your current job forever. Maybe you want to work at a different company. Maybe you want to change direction or even career. And even if your goal is to stay where you are, you want to have the best experience possible and get the most out of it. Your best bet for achieving any of these goals is to build relevant relationships with people who can give you the advice, encouragement, and opportunities you seek.

You can only go so far alone. But with the right network, your future can be limitless.

There are two types of people: those who are comfortable approaching people they don’t know and those who aren’t. Being the second type, the shy one, can have consequences.

How widespread is this problem? For example, you’d imagine that someone hired as a B2B salesperson would have no problem calling potential clients on the phone, right? After all, your job might depend on that skill. And yet, one study found that 48 percent of salespeople were afraid to do it.

If nearly half of a sales team is striving to make cold calls, then the psychological challenge of trying to connect with people we don’t know must be truly formidable — which is why the first hurdle to expanding your sphere of influence may be your hesitation to reach out to someone you don’t know. It’s much easier to sink back into your comfort zone and keep talking to people you already have a positive relationship with. But that tends to limit your horizons.

So why are we so afraid to reach out? Well, back to the study of B2B salespeople, who provided two clear reasons for being anxious about cold calling: (1) they were afraid of looking like a salesperson and (2) they were afraid of being rejected. Expand on the emotions expressed in those reasons and they can easily apply to all of us. In the first case we seek professional help and we do not want the other person to think that we are trying to use them. Research shows that professional networking can lead to feelings of “dirtiness,” particularly in people with less power in an organization. The more selfish networking feels, the more discomfort people tend to feel, especially when the experience feels forced rather than spontaneous.

In the second case of fear of rejection, well, we don’t really need to dwell on that. Nobody wants to be rejected, especially when they’re trying to connect with someone they respect and who may be at a higher professional level than them. But instead of looking at the potential rejection, focus on the positive possibilities, and that could be a game-changer. If you want something, you should ask for it, even if it’s uncomfortable.

When Steve Jobs was just twelve years old, he looked up HP co-founder Bill Hewlett’s number in the phone book (for those of you who remember phone books). He then had the nerve to call Hewlett under the pretense of requesting any surplus electronic parts the company might have. The executive was amused that Jobs would dare to call him out of the blue and was impressed with the kid’s knowledge and drive. Not only did Jobs get those parts, he also got his first entry into the world of technology. Hewlett offered him an internship at HP, where he ended up on an assembly line, using those same parts to build frequency counters for the company.

“I’ve always found one thing to be very true: Most people don’t have those experiences because they never ask for them,” Jobs said in 1994. “I’ve never met anyone who wouldn’t help me if I asked them.” I emphasize that last part of the quote because that’s what you need to focus on, not your fear. Most people want to help if they can. You just have to be willing to ask for help.

Jobs went on to say, “You have to be willing to crash and burn, with people talking on the phone, starting a company, whatever. If you are afraid of failing, you will not get very far.”

Taken from Tacitus: A Guide to Cracking the Hidden Corporate Code By Ella F. Washington, PhD. Copyright © 2024 by Ella F. Washington, PhD. Used by permission of Forbes Books, Charleston, South Carolina. All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment