The Etiquette Of Seeking Advice

I love helping college students and recent graduates, including from my alma mater, Syracuse University. I receive a good number of calls from there and elsewhere and I enjoy responding. However, I'm periodically aggravated by email from students who request "general tips to succeed."

I'm not talking about help for any specific question or objective where I can offer unique value. I'm referring to thoughtless, generic requests for tips to make it in their careers. This tells me either you have no focus, you've not done your homework, or both. Even worse, it suggests you might not care.

So here's a tip: I'm happy to help and offer my advice and expertise - I'm honored you would even regard me in such high esteem. Such interactions can offer equal value to both sides. However, if you're swimming in the shallow end and looking for general perspective, then you should first invest in research and background.

If you like my perspective, you might read some of my Spin columns or personal essays on my blog. I have my own unique way of viewing the world. I may not be right, but I share my perspectives openly and accept feedback. Importantly, there are infinite resources on the Web and in libraries featuring people smarter than me. The point is, don't waste an opportunity to fully tap willing expertise and interaction by failing to first tap readily available information.



If you really believe I have some unique insight, and you'd like to probe my brain on a particular topic, then please do seek me out. I love focused discussions with specific intent. I love investing time with people who've thought long and hard about a topic or problem. I love it when you've at least attempted a point of view. That is when engagement becomes meaningful. That is when I'm motivated to interact and help. Intellect matters.

Now, this really has nothing to do about me, nor college students. It's about how most people like to be approached and respected when asked for advice. You should treat others' time, expertise and generosity as if these assets were sacred - because, in fact, they are.

It doesn't matter if you're a college student, a newbie, an intermediate or an expert. When seeking advice from others, you should always prepare and manage the exchange as if it's the highest art. That's the proper etiquette of seeking advice and, when followed, will result in superior meaning and value.

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