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How to get a meeting with anyone

2009_0804_ss_woman_businessMy colleague Jeff Schreifels wrote a great blog post called "You Need a Friend" on how important it is for development professionals to have mentors. This is great advice. We all need friends and especially peers in our industry we can go to for advice. Mentors inspire us and help us build our expertise. I used to get emails and phone calls from students wanting an interview for a class or advice on moving to a nonprofit career. Most of them were college students and if they had a deadline it was that week. Real agendas were not made clear until I was sitting across from them. After a few years of this I grew wary of these requests until one day I got an email from a graduate student at the Acton MBA program in entrepreneurship.

It was an unforgettable breath of fresh air. She asked for precisely 30 minutes of my time, told me exactly what she wanted to cover, promised she would only ask me questions not answered by my press or blog, and in exchange would donate 10 hours of her time to my favorite charity. Three years later I'm still raving about her!

Susie Hall, Director of Admission at Acton was kind enough to share her technique with me, it's called Naive Networking. It is the most honest and realistic guide to networking I've ever read and a must read for any student or professional wanting to get ahead. Frankly, I wish they taught this in high school! Here are my favorite Naive Networking tips:

1) Do your personal soul searching and industry homework first. 2) Be specific about what you need. Make sure the other person understands how a little effort on their part can make a big difference in your life. 3) Don't pester 4) Show up prepared 5) Send your questions in advance 6) Ask questions. My favorite? "What's your favorite mistake?" 7) Give something unexpected in return. In my case it was 10 hours to my favorite charity. 8) Be nice to the gatekeepers. 9) Follow up. 10) And as my colleague Jeff would resoundingly agree with me: be gracious and be grateful.

Stay classy, Rachel

The secret to asking a favor no one can say no to

Everyone's busy and time is money.  We need each other but we're all swamped.  How do you get your request moved to the top of the stack?  How do you get the door opened?  How do you get your name at the top of the list? Today I got THE BEST ask for a visit that I've ever received.  Not only could I not say no, I couldn't wait to meet this amazing person.  I immediately asked if I could share her flawless prose on my blog and she graciously agreed:

Dear Rachel,

I am inspired and excited by the work you have chosen to do, from Girlstart to Mothers’ Milk, motherhood to consulting.  Your career, which you have described as a “calling”, is a great example of passion breeding profession.

I am writing to ask if you will grant me 30 minutes of your time for an informal interview on the subject of Calling.  I am an aspiring entrepreneur and an incoming MBA candidate at the Acton School of Business. We have been given the daunting but important challenge of spending 30 Minutes with an Entrepreneurial Hero.  I’d like to spend those 30 minutes with you.

There is no hidden agenda, I’m not job-seeking—I’m just hoping you’ll share some of the lessons you’ve learned about leveraging passion into career, balancing career with motherhood, and living a life of meaning.

If you say “yes” I promise to make good use of your time.  I will ask you only the questions that I’ve been unable to answer from reading your press and blog.  I will send you questions in advance and will end on time.  As a thank you, I’d like to donate ten hours of my time to your favorite Austin charity.

I am moving to Austin this Friday, August 6th.  I’d be pleased to meet at your convenience as early as this weekend, and would love for my first memories of Austin, Texas to include a meeting with you.  Please let me know how I can make this happen.


Ariel Julia Nazryan, Acton School of Business Class of 2011

Here's what Ariel does right:

1) She took the time to know her subject and (just as importantly) let them know she knows them.

2) She asks for a very specific and reasonable amount of time.

3) Just as important as telling me what the meeting IS; she tells me what it ISN'T.

4) She commits to using the time wisely by sending me questions ahead of time.

5) Best part?  She generously gives me the gift of HER TIME, ten hours of it, for MY favorite charity!  What a win-win!  I can feel great about someone this brilliant helping out some of the causes I hold dear.

Want to open the door to your next opportunity?  I would bet money if you followed Ariel's method you'll get the meeting.  What are you waiting for?  Go forth and ask!

Stay classy,


The Power of Money and Positive Thinking

I love watching the you tube video of Jessica, a happy carefree little girl sing about how much she likes her house, her family and her hair. I found out recently from my friend Vicki Flaugher, the genius behind Smartwoman Guides that this video was actually shot 9 years ago by her dad. Follow Vicki, she's doing an upcoming interview with Jessica! Like everyone, watching this video puts a big fat smile on my face. It makes me want to do a silly dance on my bathroom counter too, why not? The viral success of this video can teach us a lot about creating great content and spreading it but I like it because Jessica's message is a powerful reminder: are we feeding ourselves the good stuff? How many times in a day do you say out loud or too yourself "I can't do that" or "I'd suck at that" or "I don't have time for that" or "God, I look fat." STOP. You are hurting yourself. Take a lesson from Jessica; start feeding yourself the good stuff. When you say negative things to yourself, in your head or out loud it's like giving your self a negative affirmation all day long. Think its just about feeling fat in a dress? Wrong. It spills over into every piece of your life: self-confidence, beauty, health/wellness, relationships and work.

Speaking of work, I've had the pleasure of spending most of my professional life as an entrepreneur raising money. What does thinking positive have to do with that? Everything.

I've raised over 10 million dollars in my career. I love raising money. One of my favorite books about raising money is The Soul Of Money by Lynne Twist. Lynn spent her career in fundraising and in volunteer work for organizations like The Hunger Project. Her book is all about viewing money as a spiritual agent. According to her, there are 3 toxic myths of scarcity. 1) There’s not enough, hence we on on a shaky foundation of insecurity that drives our every decision 2) More is better, so we're voraciously seeking more but never feel satiated. 3) That’s just the way it is.  Hello apathy.

My career in fundraising has allowed me to see infinite interpretations of the power of money. For me, making an ask is being in a scared place with another human being I've successfully engaged in the mission of the work I am doing and the act of the ask is deeply personal conversation about how that individual wants to be significant. Fear about scarcity is like pouring acid on the conversation. It keeps people from being present, from being positive and from being successful.

What is your relationship with money? Are you chasing it, not feeling fulfilled? The most empowering way to change that is stop, take stock, and figure out what’s enough. Find the things that make you fulfilled and then use the overflow from that to make the world a better place.

Pretty soon you may be like Jessica singing about how much you like your cousins, your house and your hair.

Stay classy,