Advice on Asking for Professional Advice [Best of FaN]

Photo Credit: Jen Collins

Photo Credit: Jen Collins

So we’re doing re-runs of our favorite Fierce and Nerdy blogumns Fierce and Nerdy while I’m on my two-week vacation. I chose this column, b/c now that I’ve gotten published I’m asked for even more advice. And this advice on asking for professional advice applies even more so.

I would add this to #4: If you’re seeking writing and/or getting published advice from a published author, read her or his book before you ask her or him for any advice or favors. This is one that I thought would go w/o saying. Man, was I wrong about that. So I’m saying it. Dude, you have no business asking anyone for advice if you haven’t done the basic act of reading/watching/researching whatever credit made you think this person might be a good one to ask for advice.

From November 11, 2009

So lately I’ve been in the somewhat weird position of being asked for professional advice. Don’t get me wrong, I love giving and asking for advice, however, I’ve noticed the following sometimes-common mistakes:

1. Not Asking For Specific Advice. Now I love hearing about other writers’ backgrounds and how they came to writing and their journey so far. Seriously, I eat that ish up, so keep it coming. However, I just hate when the email ends like this: “So I’d appreciate any advice you might have.” Really? You want ALL my writing or getting published or blogging advice? Because I have a ton of it. I mean enough to write a book, which I would then expect you to buy. This is the one time you shouldn’t be general. Ask a specific question or even questions and you’re more likely to get a response from anyone you ask for professional advice.

2. Over presumption. If I haven’t met you IRL, there is pretty much zero chance that I’m going to agree to talk with you on the phone or meet with you in person because you asked me to in your first email. First of all, I hate talking on the phone. Second of all, I can barely find time to talk to my sister and my BFF regularly. If phone time is to be had, I’m calling them. If in-person time is to be had, I’m meeting with my woefully neglected IRL friends. So stick to email. And if you really want to meet take the time to log enough back and forth that whoever you want to meet will want to meet you back.

3. No compliments. This happens extremely rarely. So rarely that I almost didn’t put it in. But just in case: You know that if you write someone seeking advice, you should tell them what you admire or like about their work, right? You don’t have to be (and really shouldn’t be) gushy, but just asking for advice w/o so much as a compliment or congratulations will make you seem self-centered, even if you’re not.

4. Do your research. I try not to ask anyone for advice without researching them first, but a few times I’ve been asked questions that a simple Google search would have answered, which makes me judge the asker as lazy and unprofessional. Even if they’re not.

5. Follow-up. This is actually something that I myself have a lot of trouble with and have learned the hard way is really important. If someone takes the time to give you advice, follow up with an email thank you. Also, let them know when you make progress on your goal. I got a few emails from professional friends and advice-givers alike along the lines of, “So-and-so just told me or I just read on Facebook that you got published. Why didn’t YOU tell me/” And they were totally right. If someone made an individual donation to your success, then take the time to thank them AGAIN when you meet your goal.

So I know a lot of our readers are professionals in various fields. What advice do you have for people seeking professional advice? Sound off in the comments!