“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” — Oprah Winfrey
So many times in life we are afraid to ask for what we actually want. Our desires can vary from only wanting assistance with a problem at work, to something more complex like asking for more attention from our significant others. If there is one thing I know for sure it’s that, you get in life what you ask for. There’s no better example I could think of that emphasizes this principle more than the story of how I got my internship at the 2015 BET Awards.
Ever since I was a young man, I religiously watched the BET Awards every year. Each summer watching the awards with my family was a highlight I looked forward to enjoying. I always dreamed of attending the BET Awards or even better working for the production. In February of 2015, I finally got the opportunity. That winter I was at an UNCF VIP Reception here in Atlanta. The event was very grand and had some of the best Mac N Cheese I had ever tasted. At the engagement, I was introducing myself to everyone in the room with the intention of meeting people. As I went from table to table shaking hands and smiling I met a man named Jesse Collins, who was more important that I could even imagine.
Mr. Collins was a humble man, smiling to everyone who spoke to him and stayed to himself. As I saw him, I walked up and introduced myself. During our small talk, he informed me that he was a television executive and the executive producer of the BET Awards. I told him about my career goals, and we quickly exchanged e-mails. Long story short I sent him an email reminding him of our conversation and inquiring about internship opportunities with his production company. He then forwarded my e-mail to his internship coordinator, and I was granted the opportunity to work on his staff for the 2015 BET Awards.
The only way I was able to create this opportunity for myself was because I had the courage to ask. After reflecting on this instance for some time, I think there are three big lessons to take away from it.
When I was at the VIP Reception, I was brave enough to engage everyone in the room. I could have been modest and not talk to anyone, but I made an effort to just go for it. I stepped out of my box and just happened to luck up on meeting Mr. Collins. Whenever you are in a situation that may be conducive to your success, give it your all. Whether you are at an event that has a Q&A at the end, or in a mixer with professionals in your industry truly milk the moment. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t attempt to make. Make it a point to move through life boldly as courageously go after your goals.
2. Be Prepared
After you’ve been courageous and you’ve caught the eye of someone who may be of help to you, show them what you got. When I spoke to Mr. Collins, I clearly articulated that my career aspiration was to be a television producer. I talked with confidence because I had already knew what my career goal was. There are so many people that I meet that when I ask them what it is they want to do or accomplish they don’t know. There are others who meet me and inquire about how to write a book having not written a single outline. Whatever it is you do, always be prepared to articulate precisely what it is you want and what you can bring to the table to obtain it.
3. Follow Through
This the biggest differentiator between someone who succeeds and someone who doesn’t is their ability to follow through. So often recruiters and executives will give their contact info out to groups of people with no anticipation of receiving any emails. I was at a meeting once with a C-suite level industry executive who generously gave his personal e-mail out to the entire room. After doing so, he said, “all of you can have my contact because more than likely none of you will contact me anyway.” As realistic and insensitive as that statement was it was very true. Make it a point to capitalize on every contact you make. Always follow up with e-mails and phone calls. Be professional, be persistent and always follow through.
These three ideas above will never fail you. Working with Jesse Collins for the 2015 BET Awards was by far my favorite job position I’ve ever had. The only reason I was able to get this opportunity was because I was courageous enough to ask for it. If you are courageous enough to ask for what you want you’ll be surprised where that trait will take you.