The Power of “The Ask.”

Tips on how to ask for what you want, and actually get it.

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Recently a group of powerhouse women gathered at the home of Linnea Roberts to learn about The Second Shift. At Linnea’s art-filled home in Silicon Valley my Co-Founder Gina Hadley and I presented our business to local female leaders in finance and technology. At the end of the our talk we pointed to note cards and pens laid out on the table and asked each woman to write down the name of one person that they could introduce us to—whether a future member or a contact at a company that could provide jobs for our members. That was our “ask;” gathering the women in the room was the first step, getting them to activate their own networks on our behalf was an invaluable next level of connections.

“I am often struck by the number of women who are afraid to ask for what they want and then qualify by saying “I hate to ask” —it really is okay and my pleasure to help,” says Linnea, a former MD and current diversity advisor at Goldman Sachs. She is an advocate for professional women and an investor in female start-ups, including The Second Shift. She is often asked for favors and introductions and she strongly believes it the power of helping others in any way possible.

Gina and I are frequently asked for an introduction or to give someone advice, and we do the same to others—that is the nature of networking for business. However, meeting for a drink or a coffee without a clearly outlined goal attached is a waste of time for both parties. This was the topic of a panel on networking at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Next Generation conference that I recently attended. Here are a few takeaways from the panel:

· Get to the point—don’t waste time with small talk and then save “the ask” for the last 5 minutes.

· Follow up—if you asked for a favor make sure you update the person who helped you and thank them.

· Take charge—If someone connects you to another person don’t wait to reach out–take the reins and start the conversation.

· Be specific—come armed with exactly what you want and don’t be afraid to ask for it.

Both Linnea and the women on the Fortune panel are clear on the point of setting yourself up for success by knowing exactly what you need and being armed with goals attached to your ask. Linnea says, “be as specific as possible. Make it easy for me to follow through for you. Don’t lay all of your problems at my feet and expect me to solve them. Rather, have a few actionable things in mind that would genuinely help and are within the reality of what I can do for you.”

Finally, if you don’t ask, you don’t get—so don’t be afraid to ask! Too often women are worried about being perceived as pushy or inappropriate, but that’s all in the way that you set up THE ASK. Good rules to follow are: be polite and grateful, follow up and if you are uncomfortable, get over it! Just remember that people want to be of assistance and asking for something concrete helps them to help you. What’s the worst that happens, they say no?

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