Making First Contact

I had a conversation with my younger brother the other day that I want to share a little bit about.

He is just starting high school, and he already knows what he wants to do in his life.  He wants to be an aerospace engineer.

As we talked about it, I encouraged him to start taking steps towards that goal.  I was just trying to be encouraging and supportive.

Fast forward about 9 months and we wound up having a conversation that circled back to his goal to be an aerospace engineer.  In that 9 month span he had joined his school’s robotics team, gotten involved in an R/C avionics group, gotten several engineering-based programs for the computer, and met an actual aerospace engineer who is an acquaintance of our mother.  He has, in high school, been actively pursuing his goal in ways that most people struggle to do for their whole lives.

I want to highlight one thing in particular, the contact he made with the engineer.  I think that is really the key when anyone sets out to achieve a goal or make a dream into reality.

Talk to someone who has done it.  It can be very easy to be intimidated and hesitant, especially when trying to get a few moments of time from someone you look up to.  The truth is, people love to share their passion.  Most people are eager to have a captive audience.  And most of them were once right where you are and will want to help.

Plus, our lives grow in proportion to the relationships that we have.  By building good relationships with successful people, you are that much more likely to become one yourself!

A few tips for doing this:

  • Be clear. Let the person you are hoping to meet know exactly what you are hoping for in a clear and professional manner.  If a request in unclear it is much more likely to be rejected.  For example, “I would love to get coffee with you to talk about some of the steps you took that lead to where you are now” is way better than “I would love to get coffee and chat for a bit.”
  • Talk about them. Don’t lead off with what you hope to get or your accomplishments so far or anything about you.  That can be off-putting.  It’s not about you (at first).  Acknowledge the individual and their accomplishments, their impact on you, etc.  Then mention that you would like the opportunity to learn a bit from them.
  • Thank them! Whether or not they are able to meet with you as you hoped, be sure to thank them for their time.  If you reach out via a personal letter or an email, include a thank you at the bottom.  They just read something they could have thrown away or ignored.

The questions now are, what do you want to do?  Who has already done it?

What are you waiting for?


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