Ask advice better – replace the generic question with a hypothesis

The typical approach to asking for advice is to ask generic questions like – “how can I get a job in xx?” or “how can I do well in my x admissions interview?” 

Aside from being hit and miss if you are the person asking these sort of questions, they can be very frustrating if you are on the other end of these questions. They showcase no thoughtfulness and feel formulaic.

A better way is to replace this question with your hypothesis or approach. For example, you could lead with – “I realize it is challenging to make the switch to xx. But, my research points to other folks who’ve done it by doing yy. So, as a first step, I plan to do yy. Second, I am thinking about taking a course on the side or working on a side project to prove I can do it. I’m curious to hear your feedback on my plan?” 

This simple change in approach can have a magical effect because it showcases your preparation and thoughtfulness. In conversations where people don’t know each other well (and, let’s face it, we don’t have such conversations with people we know well), showcasing interest works much better than saying “I am interested.”

Show, don’t tell.