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Master the Art of Asking for Advice

You're young and just starting out in your career so, of course, you're always in need of good guidance. And asking for it probably seems simple enough. After all, you've already approached plenty of people for advice throughout your years of education. But according to college to career blogger Lindsey Pollak there is actually an art to asking for advice. By framing your question correctly and showing respect for other people's time, you can get more out of informational interviews and begin to build professional relationships. Here's her advice on asking for advice:

  • Make it easy for someone to say yes to your request for help. When you ask someone for advice, be specific about the kind of help you need (job hunting advice, career change advice, etc.), request a specific amount of time (15-30 minutes is usually appropriate) and offer to call the person or meet at his or her office at his or her convenience. Then, be sure to confirm 24 hours in advance so the person knows you'll show up.
  • Be specific. Instead of saying, "I'd like to hear some general advice" or "I'm happy to know anything," show that you've done your homework and you are looking for particular advice or tips. For instance, "I know that you started your career in accounting, but you switched over to consulting. I'm thinking of doing the same and would be interested to hear how you made the decision." It's perfectly fine to prepare a specific list of a few questions to guide the conversation. Don't bring a laundry list, though -- five questions is about right.
  • Request "assignments." One of the ways to turn an informational interview into a real relationship is to ask for the person to give you a few assignments, such as recommending that you subscribe to a particular industry e-newsletter, join the discussions in a particular LinkedIn group or read a specific business book. The reason I like this strategy is that it gives you a reason to follow up with this person in the future when you've accomplished the assignment that he or she has recommended.
  • Ask, "Is there anything I can do to help you?" Even though you're a student or just starting out in your career, you never know how you might be able to help another person. By asking this question, you are showing that you understand that the best networking relationships are mutually beneficial.
  • Say thank you. I am constantly shocked at how many students email me for advice, I respond to their request and then I never hear from that student again. Thanking someone after he or she has helped you is an absolute must.
Read More on BNET: (Image courtesy of Flickr user laughlin, CC 2.0)
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