Maybe it’s that back-to-school energy, but this time of year tends to be when the “pick your brain” requests start to heat up. I know there are those who say don’t let people pick your brain. It’s giving away free advice. You should charge for consulting services.
I’m not in that camp. I’m always happy to meet up for coffee to talk shop and I love helping people who are excited to make a career move, a job change, or pick up some freelance work.
However, in all those meetings, I’ve also gotten a good idea of the things we all need to work on when we ask to chat with someone about a professional move.
5 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU ASK TO PICK SOMEONE’S BRAIN
So, if you’re trying to gear up your side hustle, reroute your career, or just make a few more networking contacts, here are the top 5 things to know before you ask to pick someone’s brain.
1. REACH OUT WITH A SPECIFIC REQUEST
You might be tempted to email someone asking if they can meet for coffee so you can pick their brain — but let them know why. Tell them who you are, what you do, what you want to do, and why you think they can help you. It helps the person you’re meeting with come prepared to speak to topics that will be relevant and beneficial to you.
2. BE FLEXIBLE WHEN SCHEDULING
A couple of months ago, my friend Monica and I were setting up a time to talk about some career-related topics. Within 5 minutes, we had a set date and time and it was within the month (crazy, I know!). We were both flexible, aware of what we had on our plates, and got a date on the calendar.
My professional pet peeve is when people want to pick my brain…but can’t accommodate my schedule. Sorry, no, I am not going to hold the fourth Monday of May in 2021 for you. Either you want to make this work in the next few weeks or reach out to me when your schedule clears up.
Also, be willing to go to this person even if it’s not 100% convenient for you. Remember, they’re doing you a favor.
3. COME PREPARED: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW?
I can talk all day about industry-related topics, but, to be 100% honest, if you’ve asked to pick my brain, you need to drive the conversation so that it’s productive for you and leaves me feeling as if I’ve been able to help.
Maybe you want to get into blogging and you want to know more about back-end logistics or which platforms I recommend. Perhaps you’re launching a freelance business and want guidance on how to best present your work. Or maybe you’re looking for advice on working in-house v. at a creative agency. Those are all areas I can speak to — so, come prepared with questions and objectives for the conversation.
4. DO YOUR RESEARCH
You don’t need to be a stalker (I totally am), but it’s good to have a sense of the person’s work if you’re there to ask them about it. I’ve met with people who can cite specific websites I’ve written for, projects I’ve worked on, or jobs they saw on my resume. They are aware of my career history and want to know how I got from A to B to C. Maybe they noticed I wrote about a particular topic and want to know why I decided to dive into that.
It’s helpful, beyond just having a general idea that I work in marketing, I do freelance writing, I have a blog, and, okay, you want to do one of those, that you can reference specific examples you’d like to know more about.
5. STICK TO THE SET DATE AND TIME
I’ve planned my day around our coffee date, lunch, whatever it is. We all have busy schedules and an hour back in my day, while appreciated, is more of a nuisance because now I have to plan that hour into another day in the future.
Plus, if you’re setting up multiple networking dates and you cancel/reschedule on more than one person in the same industry…trust me, we talk.