Ask and You Shall Receive: A Quick Lesson in Advancing Your Career, One Question at a Time


This post was written by Charlotte Waldmeir, Sage Corps Country Manager in Santiago, Chile.

What happens when you take on an unconventional internship, for little pay, in another country? You get unconventional advice that's worth more than a summer internship at Deloitte. 

Over the last 2 months, I've been acting as Sage Corps' Co-Country Manager (CM) in Santiago, Chile for a group of 12 college students who traveled from the States to intern at top tech startups in Santiago.

I took the side-role as CM for two reasons:

1. I believe living abroad and working at a startup are two of the most immersive, scariest and beneficial things you can do for yourself, on a personal and professional level. As CM in Chile, I get to mentor a group of students through both.

2. A big part of my role as CM is to coordinate professional weekly events at startups, accelerators, incubators and coworking spaces in Santiago where the students can learn more about Chile's startup and business scene.* I get to attend these events, which really means I get to sit in and mooch advice from some of the most disruptive minds in LATAM.

[*Where we went for the professional events: iF, Magma, Uber Chile, NXTP Labs, Wayra Telefonica, CORFO/Startup Chile and two corporate wild-cards - BDO, McKinsey & Company]

Lucky for you, I was taking notes and below are 3 of my biggest takeaways from these weekly meet-ups.

Charlotte smiling with her cohort at BDO.

Charlotte smiling with her cohort at BDO.

1. Want a job? Ask for insight.

During a visit to Uber Chile, Regional Partnerships Manager of Southern Cone, Domingo Meneses shared one piece of advice that got me thinking:

"Ask for money, you'll get insight. Ask for insight, you'll get money."

This advice, of course, is great if you're raising capital but for man in that room (counting myself), we're just not there...yet. But what if you applied this to finding a job?

"Ask for a job, you'll get insight. Ask for insight, you'll get a job."

If you email someone cold and ask for a job, you've bottle necked yourself into a "yes" or a "no" answer. But if you were to reach out to someone who works at a company you'd love to work for one day (and/or has a job position you'd love to have one day) and ask his or her insight on what it's like working at X company etc., chances are that person will be more open to helping you get where you want to go. Why? People are wired to help and are more open to lending a hand when you're reaching yours out first. If you ask for a job, you'll just be sharing what you want. but by asking for insight, you can share your why for wanting the job.

You just have to be open to asking.

2. "Will you mentor me?"

Whether the above "seeking insight email" lands you the job or not, consider seeing the person you sent the email to as a mentor - someone who has the experience you want and the advice you need.

In every weekly visit we went to, I made a point to ask the host...

"Do you have a mentor?"

To be honest, I did this on purpose. I knew their answer would be "yes" and I wanted the students to witness first hand how everyone that stood in front of them got to where they are today because they had an army of advisors along the way. I also wish someone had pointed this out to me when I was fresh out of college.

While some speakers listed their investors or co-founder as their mentors, other speakers explained how close family members, like grandparents or aunts and uncles, were also their mentors but they didn't even realize it until years later. But the most interesting part about asking this question to the different speakers was their shift in body language and attitude. After the question was asked, every speaker perked up in their chair and broke into a huge grin. The question turned into stories about those they admire and respect most who have helped them get where they are today. Many also explained that they want to be mentors to others moving forward.

Moral of the story - whether you get on one knee or put it in a subject line, don't be afraid to pop the question:

"Will you mentor me?"

Chances are, they will say yes.

3. Subject: Thank you.

There are two things I cannot stress more as CM:

1. Be on time (!)

2. Write a thank you note to the host or speaker. Oh wait - can you hear that? It's your parents saying "told you so." Here's a great example why:

After taking the students to meet with the program coordinator of NXTP Labs, Cristobal Hurtado, he let me know that he was really impressed by the students sending him thank you notes. He told me he actually turned to his coworker after receiving just a few of the notes via email and LinkedIn and said - 

"This just doesn't happen anymore. People don't send 'Thank Yous,' and they should."

Case in point. Send the (damn) email.

There you have it - my three biggest takeaways as CM. IF you have something to add or want to share your insight as a mentee, mentor, etc., please leave a comment below!

Think you have what it takes?