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asking for career advice Polywork

Ask a robot: How do I ask someone for career advice?

We’ve succumbed to our robot overlords for everything from sparking romance to how we vacuum our floors — career advice should be no exception. Therefore, we enlisted the help of an AI robot to scour the internet for the most common (and uncommon) career-related questions and advice.

Below, we decided to go back to the start with a question on the minds of many across the internet — how do I approach even asking someone for career advice?

Editor’s note: Don’t fret, we’ll also give our take (and call shenanigans) on any answers we find to be unhelpful, unclear, or insufficient.

How do I ask someone for career advice?

Asking for career advice can be a great way to gain insight and guidance for your professional development. Here are six tips on how to ask someone for career advice:

1. Identify who you would like to ask for career tips

Think about who you respect and admire in your field, or someone who has experience in the industry you are interested in.

Our take: Not a bad start robot! I think there’s also a research element to this. Perhaps, it’s asking a friend if they know anyone in your field of interest, or conducting some internet sleuthing to see if there’s an industry mainstay that would be ideal to speak with about your career path.

2. Reach out to them

Getting in touch can be a difficult hurdle to overcome. Try to reach out to them via email or social media, or ask for an introduction through a mutual connection.

Our take: Still going strong! This seems like the most reasonable path, but reaching out alone will not necessarily result in career advice (and could be a recipe for a no-response in return). It’s also communicating in a way that both stands out and is more classy than an unsolicited social media direct message. More on that below.

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3. Be specific about the career advice

Explain why you are reaching out to them and be clear about what you are looking for. For example, you may want to know about their career path, their experience in a particular job, or advice on how to approach your own job search.

Our take: This is a “yes and” piece of advice from our robot friends. It’s worth adding why you think they — and no one else — are the best person to help you on your path to career success. Compliments don’t hurt, either.

4. Be respectful of their time

Acknowledge that they are busy and ask if they have a few minutes to chat, or if they would prefer to communicate via email.

Our take: This is a blanket piece of advice, for sure, but for some odd reason excludes our wonderful new world of video meetings. Specificity also matters. Consider yourself a salesperson selling, well, yourself. What would you say to sell this amazing product? For starters, just ask for a small amount of their time, say 30 minutes. By putting a finite number to your outreach, you’re setting thoughtful boundaries around the commitment you’re requesting.

5. Be prepared to ask questions about your career interests

Before the conversation, think about the questions you would like to ask and make sure to take notes during the conversation. The latter will come in handy for the next step.

Taking notes is a great failsafe and as important, a positive signal to the other side that you’re really taking in their career advice.

Our take: Good job, robot. We cannot emphasize this enough — meandering through a conversation with someone you admire, but could also help advance your burgeoning career at some point in the future, is a massive missed opportunity. And despite our infinite trust in your amazing memory, taking notes is a great failsafe and as important, a positive signal to the other side that you’re really taking in their career advice.

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6. Follow up

After the conversation, send a thank-you email expressing your appreciation for their time and any insights they shared with you.

Our take: Ah yes, the lost art of the follow-up. At its lowest common denominator, your career advice conversation is a one-way transaction between you and the person you’re meeting with. At the very least, you can send your appreciation for their time. This also gives you another opportunity (or potentially one last chance) to ask a few follow-up questions and/or keep the conversation going.

Takeaways: Asking for career advice

It doesn’t take AI technology to know that asking for career advice can at times feel like a daunting, if not impossible, task. Here’s a lightweight “asking for career advice” checklist:

1. Identification. Who’s the best person(s) to give you this advice?

2. Outreach. Keep it simple, and if possible, to their preferred channel (assuming that information is readily available).

3. Specificity. Get to the “ask” quickly and efficiently.

4. Respectfulness. If you break through, be mindful of the time you’re taking.

5. Preparation. Make sure you have all of your questions outlined beforehand (and in some cases, share them with the other side beforehand).

6. Follow-up. Give thanks and keep the conversation going. Nurturing contacts is critical to your future career.

To call back to our earlier sales analogy in this piece, remember that this is essentially cold outreach — you’re asking people for their time, experiences, and resources, so the bar to success is high. That’s why breaking through is an achievement in itself, but also one that you should hold in high regard and prepare for in-kind.