Viewing entries in

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

True confessions in online marketing

Most of my career I have spent as an entrepreneur and fundraiser.  Setting out to change the world for girls to empower them in science, engineering, math, and technology has proved immensely rewarding.    I owe part of my success to my love of marketing.  Since the Carter administration I’ve been contemplating how to get on TV and share my bigger message.  I remember feeling disillusioned as a small child that the only people that seemed to make the news had done do because they died in tragic accidents.  Never to be discouraged, I took matters into my own hands and by the 6th grade when my friend Kim Overton, a serial entrepreneur, and I orchestrated an impromptu carnival at the university housing projects I was embolden enough to pick up Kim’s moms rotary phone and dial the Austin American Statesman directly, insisting that they “Send a photographer and reporter right away!” This Eloise approach to public relations worked for me as an 11 year old.  We secured our first media placement, a fabulous shot of Kim on the cover of the metro state that I wish I had today.

As so began my complete fascination with marketing, especially good marketing.  After spending my middle school years playing “ad agency” in my (working single) mom’s conference room at work I set my sights on the McCombs school of business and a degree in marketing.  My 3.7 GPA paid off and I was the first person in my family to be accepted into business school.  My dad was so proud he almost couldn’t stand it, this from a man had spent his life generously exaggerating the mere half successes of my youth: “Rachel was first chair violinist in the orchestra!”  In reality I was 9th chair and I only sat next to 1st chair because the chairs were arranged in two rows.  My dad would probably dispute this.   

I often wonder where I would be today had I actually earned that degree in marketing but we will never know since I was derailed by a poor grade in business calculus.  Having internalized the message since 6th grade that I was “bad” at math and subsequently be forced to kiss my childhood dream of a marketing degree goodbye, I set out to change the world for girls and ensure they found math, science, engineering and technology as empowering as they are fun.

After a successful and rewarding career launching and running an organization empowering girls in math  I have spent the past two years of my life somewhat undercover as an online marketer, steeped in best practices for non-profits doing online marketing and online fundraising.   For me, it has been like getting that marketing degree only more fun and rewarding because it was in practice, not theory and through my efforts hundreds of nonprofits have doubled their fundraising results or more, raising on average 83% more money and getting a 300% return on their investment.  I could have never done that in a class in college.   

Last week I heard Dr Peter Bishop, futurist from the University of Texas at Houston speak at the Texas Nonprofit Summit.  What jobs will there be in the future? They don’t exist yet.  They will be determined largely by innovation and the efforts of the creative class – coined by Richard Florida as a profound new force in the economy and life of America - a fast-growing, highly educated, and well-paid segment of the workforce on whose efforts corporate profits and economic growth increasingly depend. Members of the creative class do a wide variety of work in a wide variety of industries---from technology to entertainment, journalism to finance, high-end manufacturing to the arts. While they may not consciously think of themselves as a class, they share a common ethos that values creativity, individuality, difference, and merit. Places that succeed in attracting and retaining creative class people prosper; those that fail don't.

Who doesn’t want to work in workplace culture of creativity, individuality, difference, and merit?  I’m proud my hometown of Austin, Texas ranks at the top of the list for the creative class and thankful to be a part of it, self-earned marketing degree and all.

Opportunity is everywhere and life is what you make of it!   

Stay classy,


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,