We often need to ask for career help from acquaintances or strangers. Many of us are very uncomfortable doing this or asking for any help at all.
This is all about building a relationship. Asking for advice, insights, and recommendations is a great way to initiate and cultivate a lasting relationship.
A person who knows how to achieve positive things in multiple areas of life is someone who can analyse situations well and come up with good solutions. That’s the kind of person you want advice from.
People who are one-trick ponies – they have a great career but are a disaster in other aspects of life often have their lives out of proportion and thus can give skewed advice. An advisor doesn’t have to have the same balance as you, but some balance is great.
Before you ever ask for advice, sit down and make your own lists of pros and cons regarding the decision. Know the ins and outs of each path from your own perspective and don’t simply allow the advisor to make the decision for you. Their role is to add new elements and perspectives to your decision, not make the decision.
When you seek out someone in your prospective next career, offer to buy him or her a cup of coffee or lunch. But don’t request an informational interview; that says you want a job and can scare people off. Instead, ask for AIR: advice, insights and recommendations.
- Advice: Tips on what it takes to break in and succeed.
- Insights: The kinds of things someone usually learns after years in the field: the skinny about its culture, politics, pitfalls and key players. You want to learn who is on top and why. Then you’ll have a better sense of how to make your own way.
- Recommendations: Find out who you should talk to next and ask, if appropriate, for an introduction. Request names of good books to read and classes to take, as well as industry groups that can help you start networking effectively.
To get answers to your questions about entering a field, you need to be able to clearly state the type of work you want to do. A 30-second elevator pitch is the best way to get your message across.
Once you’ve perfected your elevator pitch, share it not just with others who already have a job like the one you want, but with everyone you meet. You never know who’ll have the keys to unlock the door. Gratefully accept any advice or offers of introductions.