One of the reasons I created the American Academy of Nurse Entrepreneurs is so that Nurse Owners have a place to ask for advice from peers and mentors. After all, there’s no better way to know how to do something than to ask someone who’s “been there, done that.”
However, I’ve noticed lately that many people don’t know how best to ask for advice and guidance. The better your ask, the better the answers you’ll receive! So here are some tips:
1. Quiet your qualms. “I’m afraid to ask. They’ll think I’m an amateur. I’ll look incompetent. They won’t see me as a peer if I ask this ‘dumb’ question.” Shhhh. Don’t let this kind of self-sabotaging self-talk get in your way! Time to tamp down any doubts you might have about learning from someone else’s expertise. Not only is advice a daily currency (and necessity!) for entrepreneurs, but research shows that being on the asking end can actually make you come across as MORE competent! And a study from researchers at Cornell and Stanford found that people tend to underestimate–by as much as 50 percent–how willing others are to help when asked. There are plenty of people out there – especially within AANE! – who would be more than happy to share their insights and help you out. Give them a chance!
2. Make it easy for someone to say yes to your request. When you ask someone for advice, be specific about the kind of help you need (i.e. how much money should you set aside to open a DPC practice). Also, request a specific amount of time (15 to 30 minutes is usually appropriate) for your meeting or call. And, (when quarantine isn’t in place) it’s a good idea to offer to meet them at his or her office at their convenience. Then, take the initiative to send a calendar invite (with Zoom link if meeting virtually) so the person knows you’ll show up.
3. Do not ask to “pick someone’s brain.” Why? Not only does it sound gross, it is also very one-sided. If you are picking my brain, what’s in this conversation for me? Always request advice in a way that makes the ask-ee feel respected and like he or she will leave the conversation with something, too.
4. Be specific. Instead of saying, “I’d like to hear your general advice” or “I’m happy to know anything,” show that you’ve done your homework and you are looking for particular insights. An effective ASK involves three key elements:
- Context. Specific information the reader/listener needs in order to answer your question.
- Goal. What your desired outcome is.
- Struggle. What specifically is stopping you from achieving your desired outcome.
This isn’t complex, but let’s look at it in action:
I’m a [what you do] trying to accomplish [goal].
While I’ve had some results like [x] and [y], I’d love your input.
If you had to tackle: [specific struggle] how would you do it?
So far I’ve tried [a], [b], and [c], but I’m wondering if you might go about it in a different way.
If you’re available, I’d appreciate hopping on a 15 minute call to hear your thoughts.
Thanks in advance.
P.S. [include a thank you for something they’ve written, spoke about, etc]
5. Request “assignments.” One of the ways to turn an informational interview into a real relationship is to ask for the person to give you a few assignments. Like, do they recommend you subscribe to a particular industry e-newsletter? Join a particular Facebook or LinkedIn group? Read a specific business book, or take a course? The reason I like this strategy is that it gives you a reason to follow up with this person in the future when you’ve accomplished the assignment that he or she has recommended. This is how you demonstrate that you are a person who listens and takes action. And it makes it easy to spark the next conversation!
6. Ask, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” You never know how you might be able to help another person. By asking this question, you are showing that you understand that the best networking relationships are mutually beneficial. Even if the person doesn’t need anything right now, he or she may want to reach out to you in the future and this question sets up that opportunity.
7. Say thank you. I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating. I am constantly shocked at how many people email me for advice, I respond to their request and then I never hear from that person again. Thanking someone after he or she has helped you is an absolute must and will make it more likely that this person will help you again in the future. Depending on the situation, I often go a step further and send a gift. This doesn’t need to be big or expensive, just something thoughtful that the person will enjoy or find useful.
A few additional notes when it comes to asking for advice via email:
- Keep it short. Guess what? No one is reading the eighth paragraph in your email asking for advice. If you want real insight (and not just a yes or no answer or radio silence), don’t look for a pen pal. You’re after a quick meeting or phone call, and to get there you need to keep your ask shorter than you think is humanly possible.
- Give extra care to your subject line. “Quick Question” won’t cut it when you’re trying to get your email noticed in a jam-packed inbox. But the good news is that email is generally so boring, anyone who is direct or entertaining can stand out.
Remember, by not asking for advice, you’re holding yourself back. And there are plenty of people, especially in entrepreneurial circles, who would be happy to help…if only you’d ask.
And, of course, if you would like to be a part of a supportive community that is regularly asking the smart questions and getting brilliant answers, I encourage you to join our American Academy of Nurse Entrepreneurs Facebook group!