Home > People > Just Ask

Just Ask

My reason for sharing my interactions with
people is to show how simple it is to engage people – I ask.  Many of us spend an inordinate amount of time
studying tricks and tactics on how to get a difficult meeting, negotiate a
lower price on a new camera or score a first class upgrade.  Are we overcomplicating our lives and
forgetting the obvious? 

Consider the following story I wrote years ago
about how I got my first ‘real’ job:

During my junior year at Duke, I was scrambling
to find a summer internship in New York City, preferably on Wall Street.  My objectives were to be challenged, to learn
about what those guys in suits actually do and to figure out what to do after
graduation.  It was 1997, and I was also
naively attracted to New York City from watching too many episodes of Sex in
the City.  As I considered my options,
CNBC was on TV in the background, and I noticed Maria Bartiromo, a.k.a. “the
Money Honey”, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange trying to interview a CEO without being knocked over.  I was impressed by her scrappy demeanor, but she definitely looked like she could use a hand.  I called CNBC’s switchboard and asked for
Maria Bartiromo.  She answered the phone
herself, and I asked if she would consider hiring me as her summer intern
(without knowing if the role even existed). 
Maria confirmed that she was looking for an intern, but that it was an
unpaid position.  I briefly considered
living in New York City for three months without any income and decided to
explore my alternatives.

I learned that John Mack, the CEO of Morgan Stanley, was a Duke Alum.  His nickname,“Mack the Knife”, indicated that
he may be more difficult to engage than Maria Bartiromo, so I bought some heavy
writing paper and a fancy pen.  I spent
hours writing and rewriting a letter explaining why I wanted to work at Morgan
Stanley.  I ended the letter asking John
Mack if he would consider offering me a summer internship.  About a week later John Mack called to thank
me for my handwritten letter and offered me an internship.  My first thought was:  I could not believe what can be accomplished
by simply asking.  My second thought
was:  I hope John Mack never finds out
that “the Money Honey” was my first choice.

Asking is not easy.  It comes with the risk of rejection and
requires years of repetition and practice. 
My odds have improved since 1997, but I have also experienced my fair
share of rejection.  As I continue to
write about people, you may wonder why perfect strangers are willing to speak
to me.  My answer is always the same – I
ask.

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  1. Svitlana
    May 25, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I have a lot to learm from you . My problem always was being afraid to ask. You said it wright: many people don’t ask , because of fear of rejection and I’m just like them.Thank you for following my blog and my updaits on twitter.

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