What would you prefer?
Someone who asks, “How can I help?” or someone who says, “Here’s how I can help”.
When working for a large charity, I noticed that we would get many letters from people who wanted to help; usually, they were willing to gift us their time, which was fantastic.
There was one problem though, as a busy staff member...
I didn’t have time to sift through the contents of each letter to see if the person had what we were looking for.
So typically they ended up in the assigned pile of “I’ll get to that later”.
To advance your career in the marketplace or within your organisation, you need to understand how these two phrases can either help or hinder you.
If your colleague, team or organisation already know you well, then my guess is they will immediately respond with a resounding yes!
However you will need to be ready and willing for them to give you all the jobs they (and possibly you) hate doing!
This might advance your relationships, but may not advance your career in the areas of skill or contribution you want it to.
If your colleague, team or organisation don’t know you well, and you want to avoid the yuck jobs, or being in the “I need to think about that” pile, then I suggest you present yourself differently.
Stating how you can help is one of the best ways to advance your career.
Stating how you can help is both effective and efficient for everyone, however there are some tips to be aware of so that you are well prepared for a conversation, or how you will write an email:
Be both curious and sensitive to the situation you are offering help in:
What’s really going on for them? Consider practical, financial and emotional impacts your specific offer may have in both the short and long term. Typically if the situation is one of crisis, the timing of your offer may cause inappropriate distraction.
Temper your communication to ensure you don't come across as being the hero coming in to save them. Showing how you fit into their culture and circumstances will go along way.
2. Being clear about your reasons for wanting to help:
Speak or write with courage and conviction, especially if you are wanting to achieve something specifically that benefits you (and the organisation). For example, a pay increase, a promotion, or to obtain a role that does not as yet exist.
3. Be courageous and honest about the limitations of how you can help:
Many people have been 'burned' by well-meaning staff or volunteers who might become 'unavailable' to fulfill their original commitments. Find a way to clearly state your offer and stick to it. These people just might be a referee for you one day.
If you are seeking an advancement, be honest about the skills you know you can bring, and those that you are still working on. Don't let those emerging skills stop you from your offer, just be clear about them and how you plan to manage them.
"Here's how I can help" is a wonderfully brave statement that I wish more people felt able to clearly express.
Of course, the way you will communicate this, will be by way of an invitation or offer. One that you allow the other person to gracefully decline should their circumstances not yet be ready for someone as wonderfully capable as you!
Can I leave you with a challenge?
Even if you aren't looking for advancement, are you able to courageously and clearly state how you are helping where you are now?
If someone 'tapped you on the shoulder' and asked how you might help them in an upcoming project or activity, can you immediately reply with confidence and enthusiasm?
If not, then it might be time to consider:
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