I've asked plenty of experts for advice over the years. Some of it has been career-changing. I recommend you do the same in order to learn from those who have already fought the fight. But there are better and more abysmal ways of going about it. 

From time to time, a complete stranger will pop up on the messenger function on my social media and tell me (not ask, tell) that 'they need to meet with me,' so that 'I can teach them how to...' Some don't even bother to say hello, but simply open with: "Douglas, I need you to..."

The idea of approaching a person with the expectation that they will take time out of their working day, because a complete stranger 'needs them to do so,' somewhat baffles me. I don't expect fawning, and neither does any other professional. But basic courtesy really is a minimum requirement for the beginnings of a professional relationship. 

When approaching any industry expert, for insights on any topic, phrases like, "I know you're very busy but," and "I would appreciate any pointers you might be able to provide me with," will always land a lot better than "I need you to..."

Experts are generally quite willing to give pointers. But the positioning of the relationship matters. We are, after all, asking a busy person for a favour. They are under no obligation to grant it. I've also found that the best approach is not to ask for too much up front. It's better to explain your level of progress, then merely ask for advice on your next step. Asking a person (or, as I've experienced so many times, 'telling' a person) to be your mentor, is a recipe for disqualification.

Go about it respectfully, and you might get a useful response. You might just pick up that one golden nugget of insight that elevates your career to the next level. Do it often, and correctly, and you could glean the insights you need to become the greatest in your game.  


Douglas Kruger is a professional speaker and expert on disruptive innovation. See him in action at www.douglaskruger.co.za