One of the nicest guys in venture capital, Jonathon Triest, recently hired a new associate, Blake Robbins. It’s clear from Jonathon’s tweet above that Blake has already hit the ground running.
But let’s flashback about two years… Here’s the backstory to Blake landing his new gig. He reached out to Jonathon while an undergraduate at Michigan State, asking for an internship. He got the internship. Less than two years later, it turned into a full-time job.
For those of you who know my background, you’re thinking this is going to be another “power of experiential education,” sermon. Nope, though it could be. While data suggests that seven out of ten internships turn into a full-time job, Blake is where he is today through hustle. Chutzpah. Relentlessness.
It’s pretty simple, really. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
I wrote a blog post in 2014 on leveraging social media to get hired which Blake executed to perfection:
One of the benefits of social media is the access it has afforded those ‘on their way up’ to those with greater experience. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help… You may not receive a response a majority of the time, but when you do, it could lead to career guidance and growth.
Raising your hand is what separates the special ones from the normal ones. Blake may (or may not) be the most talented VC associate in all the land. But he hustled. He asked, he got.
And now, a month into his new role, he’s showing that same hustle and speed on the job as he did landing the job – 30 days later, his firm is already closing on a deal he sourced. Even if hustling doesn’t coarse through your veins like it does through Blake’s, asking is an important skill to practice and implement, specifically if you work in an entrepreneurial or startup role where bandwidth and other resources may be constrained.
Attending a SXSW panel in Austin where you really admire one of the speakers? Don’t just mention their advice on your Twitter account mid-panel to gain a few likes and retweets, queue up in a physical line at the end of their speech and introduce yourself. Authentically. Articulately. Humbly. Lunch at the food trucks can wait. Make that connection. Say hi, shake a hand. Offer something valuable. Get inspired further.
I’ve seen dozens of aspiring entrepreneurs who connected with legendary VC Fred Wilson through the comments section of his blog. They were authentic. They were articulate. They communicated well. They, like Blake, evidently had the talent.
Think outside the box, like Blake did. LA’s top VC, Mark Suster, recently responded to several entrepreneurs from Israel, Ghana, South Africa, and New Zealand on Snapchat. [Sidenote: It’s a blue ocean for Suster on Snapchat at the moment, there aren’t any other VCs that I am aware of that have the same love affair he does with the platform, and thus provide the same access that he has.]
And it’s not just the power of networking. We can ask more frequently in our personal lives as well. In line for an expensive root canal with your oral surgeon but don’t have great dental insurance? Ask for a discount – (almost) everything in life is negotiable. You just have to ask.
Of course, you will get turned down pretty frequently. Suster and Wilson are busy guys after all, and your oral surgeon has a family to feed. But what will surprise you is that your hit rate will be better than nil – which is what it would have been if you never asked at all.
The thing I love about entrepreneurship is that there is no shame in saying, “well that didn’t work out, let’s try something else.” The same is true when it comes to the ask.