"Anyone" or "Anything" is not a reasonable ask

Asking for intros to "anyone interesting" will not work.

Ron Williams from Simplist was one of my first contacts in the New York technology scene. He's a big thinker and a clear-minded professional and it's been great to watch his vision for understanding and utilizing social networks grow and evolve over the past couple years.

We were introduced by a mutual friend and two memories of our first conversation, a video chat, have stuck with me.

Memory 1: As we were finishing up the chat Ron said "It was actually really good to meet you". I wasn't sure what he was expecting but I was glad to have exceeded his (apparently) low expectations.

Memory 2: When I asked Ron for more introductions around the industry so I could grow my network, Ron forced me to be specific about who I wanted to meet. He wasn't being difficult; he just knew that he could be most helpful if I gave him something to build on.

That first memory makes me laugh. The second memory comes to mind whenever I make any sort of ask to a friend or contact.

Up until that conversation with Ron my standard line was that I wanted to meet "anyone doing anything interesting". I thought I was increasing the likelihood of finding the next conversation by being entirely open. Ron made me realize that the lack of specificity was actually me offloading work onto others and making it hard for them to be helpful.

I learned that a better strategy was to give a clear prompt for the person to riff on:

  • FinTech companies in New York
  • Fully vested engineers looking to step up into CTO roles
  • Business development people who started their careers in the corporate world
  • Talented graphic designers with marketing backgrounds

It's very hard to come up with good ideas in a vacuum and a specific ask can prompt creativity.

Further reading: Ron's blog post about making LinkedIn useful.