How to Politely Ask to Pick Someone's Brain
You’ve been following your favorite business boss on the gram for awhile now and you exchange a few words every so often. You run into a career block and you think to yourself “Let me just ask so-and-so, they should have an answer for me!”. So you slide in their DMs and say “Hey, can I pick your brain for a bit?”. Days, weeks, and eventually a whole month goes by before you realize your question was curved. Welp! Whether or not you had authentic intentions, asking “Can I pick your brain” can make professionals feel uneasy and get the opposite reaction you were expecting. Getting golden advice can help you save time, money, and effort and help you gain clarity, insight, mentorship, and resources to help you get ahead that sometimes come at a cost. To ensure that you get your questions answered and the guidance you need for your professional endeavors, read my do’s and don’t on how to politely ask to pick someone’s brain below!
1. DON’T ask a professional to “pick their brain”, DO ask for their advice instead.
Asking to pick someone’s brain is probably the easiest way to get your DM or email ignored instead of the guidance you were hoping for and that’s cool. It’s pretty typical that most professionals get similar messages from others and although they may want to help, realistically they can’t make time for every single person. In order to stand out ask them if you could get their advice on a specific topic and the best way to get in touch with them. Ask to shoot them an email, therefore they won’t feel pressured and are more likely to answer your question.
2. DO greet them with a salutation, DON’T start off with the question(s).
Taking the time to greet someone with a pleasantry definitely earns you a few brownie points. It shows respect and appreciation for their time. Great manners indicate that you are thoughtful and personable, making you appear approachable and easy to communicate with. Messaging someone and going straight into your question without a greeting, can make you appear inconsiderate and transactional.
3. DON’T ask them out for coffee, DO ask to start an email chain or for a quick call.
Time is of the essence, so asking to sit down with someone can be a lot considering the travel-time, work-interruption, and sit-down session just to have a “nicer way of getting their brain picked”. Opposed to sending red flags to the person you’d like to link with, ask to start an email chain with them to make better use of your time by getting the questions you want answered. Asking for a quick 15 minute call is also doable for most professionals. Regardless, either methods will increase your chances of getting advice and guidance.
4. DO be specific with your ask, DON’T forget to do your research.
If the person you admire offers free advice, content, and resources take advantage and soak up what you can before approaching them. Browse the web and see if they wrote a blog post on something you were seeking advice on or head over to their instagram stories for tips. Before approaching a professional with your “ask”, do your own research before you may possibly ask a question they’ve been asked online. Make sure your questions are super pointed so that you can give the conversation structure and direction. DO only reach out to people if your resources are completely exhausted.
5. DON’T be transactional, DO bring value to the table.
Transactional intentions can usually be spotted from a mile away, and it’s not always well received. Professionals can detect whether or not you’re self-invested and in turn can deny your requests to link from the get-go. All relationships should be transformational, so be authentic and make it your goal to connect with them on a compassionate level. Truly listen without the intent to respond or even use the time as an opportunity to showcase your your work. When you show someone your progression and that you’re willing to put the work in, you’ll earn admiration for your hustle. Let them know of which ways you could be of service to them or anyone in their network, and offer a way to help them out. Offer them something in exchange for their time and expertise and I promise this could be the beginning of a blossoming professional; relationship.
In the instance that your career-crush doesn’t respond, don’t take it personal! Stay compassionate and be persistent by following up with them in the future. They may have been busy before and three months from now just may be the perfect time.I hope these tips help some of you in approaching some of your favorite professionals in your field! Let me know if you’ve tried any of my tips or have any yourself by dropping them in the comments below.