We’re all searching for people that are one (or more) step(s) ahead of us in some areas, to show us the way. But how can we make the most out of when we actually meet and talk to these people?
There are a few things I try to do to increase my chances of being helped and getting better, more personalized guidance.
Before you ask for something:
- do your research about them
- find a way to show a willingness to apply what they say and/or help them in return
And when you ask for something:
- make a low-effort, low-commitment initial request – consider time, money, social capital, and anything else that may be at stake for them.
Make this a mental checklist and refer back to it every time you’re looking for a mentor or simple advice from others.
Two practical examples
Yesterday I had two Skype calls with two Brazilian young professionals. We chatted about our stories, Praxis, opportunities abroad, startups, etc. They had very distinct stories and mindsets, which led to different conversations.
One of them was looking for an opportunity to come work in the US or Canada.
His approach so far was to search for open opportunities on LinkedIn and submit his application for the ones he found interesting, uploading his resume and shooting it to the recruiters.
He wasn’t getting much luck. Most companies would reply back with a generic answer saying that there were other candidates who were a better fit, so they decided not to move forward with him.
The other guy wasn’t looking for a job abroad.
He’d built a startup while in college, won a tournament and got a scholarship to come to San Francisco to participate in a two-week acceleration event. He’d come in January 2018, and he was looking into extending his stay to visit incubators and startups in the area.
When we started talking, he mentioned a few things I published on my blog, asked interesting questions, and directed the conversation toward his goal – how he could make the most out of that trip.
The first guy was a nice guy, but he hadn’t done his research.
When we first chatted, a few days before the call, he mentioned his goal of getting a job in the US.
I recommended the Praxis blog as a good resource to get started, but when I mentioned a few things that are often discussed there, such as value propositions and pitch decks, he seemed not to have heard about them before.
All I could do to help him at that point was to refer back to that initial resource and add a bit of my own perspective.
The second guy not only got better recommendations according to what his goals were, but also provided me with value in return.
We were talking about the Brazilian ecosystem of startups – something he had experience with, and I didn’t, but wanted to get involved – when he stopped and said: “wait, let me think about how I can help you with this”. And he found a way to do so.
Now, we have a connection that’s mutually beneficial, making it easier for us to keep in contact and continue creating value for each other.
The bottom line
If you want to get someone’s help, dedicate some time to researching and thinking about ways in which you can provide value for them as well. If you think you have nothing to give, think again. For instance, you probably have more time than them. That’s an asset.
If nothing really comes out, then just tell them your story, and ask how you can help.
The attitude is what matters most.
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