20 Day Challenge Day 16 – Reaching Out to Strangers

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Greenfield, MA Natives – Penn Jillette & Dave Williams

Years ago, a dear friend of mine wanted to apply to Physician Assistant programs. She had a non-medical related bachelors and was working as an EMT for an urban 911 organization to gain experience. She felt she needed a physician recommendation to complement her application.

I suggested she ask her medical director for a recommendation. She was resistant because she was relatively new and he really didn’t know her. So, I recommended that she reach out to him, tell him her aim for a year from now, and ask what she could do to ensure he was able to see her performance and feel comfortable in 12 months to write a great recommendation. She followed the advice, he agreed, and a year later he wrote a wonderful recommendation that I’m sure contributed to her acceptance to a great program.

Over the years, I have encountered people who wanted to build a relationship or advance their career through a contact, but felt awkward reaching out to someone important and making that connection. I’m not sure their actual reasoning, but I predict they thought it would feel strange, or the important person wouldn’t respond, or that they wouldn’t know what to do if they responded. They missed an opportunity.

Why is this topic worthy of a blog post? I have found many people wish to reach out to someone they admire or see as important, but hesitate because they think they are too important, too busy, or they are nervous the person will judge them in a negative way. In my experience, most people are just normal folks, are approachable and, those worth knowing, are more than happy to respond to an email or phone call and make time for you.

What has reaching out to people that felt out of reach done for me?

  • On more than one occasion, I have reached out to an industry leader who later transformed my career and spring boarded me to a new level of learning and opportunity.
  • I’ve had dinner with a celebrity and given personal tickets to their show.
  • I’ve started conversations and met with senior leaders of major national and international organizations.
  • I’ve learned from thought leaders behind great research.
  • I’ve benefited from leaders coaching me on how to achieve career results.
  • I’ve opened the door to publish an article in a publication or do a talk at an important meeting.

This list is not comprehensive, but the theme is true. I reached out to someone, shared who I was and what I was trying to accomplish, and I was respectful of their gift of time. More times than not, the act of reaching out has offered many benefits and few negatives. Those that have not responded or have not been open to my connection have always been folks I didn’t want to connect with after all.

Next time there is someone you wish to know, take the time to craft a concise email or phone message sharing what you are trying to accomplish and asking for a convenient time to visit. Be respectful of the time you receive by being prepared and focusing on learning. Thank them for their time.

It may feel awkward to ask, but the rewards are many and people are wonderful to meet (including leaders). I always remember the saying: A stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet. Who should you reach out to today?

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PDSA Time Unknown

PDSA Learning – No specific learning. I’m on the road and again doing this post the day before it’s due. I was not motivated to take the time to write but pushed through. Scheduling a post for the next day helps getting it done. Web stats, shares, retweets remain the same. Still feel like I have limited data from readers of whether I am providing value. Need to develop test to ask for comments or interaction.