On asking for help

Wharton Business School professor and author Adam Grant offers up his take on How Not to Ask for a Recommendation Letter. It’s directed towards college students, and it’s too late for this year’s crop of high school seniors to implement the advice. But I’m sharing it anyway because I think all students (and many parents) can still draw some great lessons from it.

Here’s a snippet of what Grant said was one of the best recommendation requests he’s ever seen.

“I was hoping you would be willing to write me a letter of recommendation because I have interacted with you over the past couple of years more than with any other professor here. I have made countless mistakes as a team leader, including micromanaging in our first weeks as a club, not giving proper feedback to my teammates about their performance, and not being able to defuse tension at board meetings. But I have also grown tremendously, especially with the help of your advice on…”

Part of being successful means asking for help when you need it. Those requests sometimes mean asking someone to do you a favor, and people don’t always feel compelled to say yes. So here are a few past posts that explain more about what this student did—and what you’ll need to do—if you want the people you’re asking for help to respond in kind.

Here’s one with Grant explaining why admitting your inadequacies—rather than simply selling your strengths—is a more effective way to get job offers, promotions, and board seats.

And another highlighting the most applicable of Grant’s “6 Ways to Get me to Email You Back.”

Here’s another, this one with my advice on how to deserve the help you need (along with some links to other past posts about how to ask for help effectively).

And a final one for parents with guidelines for emailing your student’s teachers.