How to Handle the “choose Your Brain” Request
We looked at how to ask or not ask for free professional advice: Don’t say, “Can I choose your brain?” and make a specific, realistic request . But when you’re on the other side of a tiny cafe table, heed Quartz’s thoughtful advice on how to get your brain to work .
Although the article is titled “How to Politely Decline,” author Rosie Spinks talks a lot about when and how to say yes, because while you can’t spend your entire workweek drinking coffee with college alumni and startups, you will make the world a better place by helping those below you from time to time, and you will advance your career by occasionally providing services to those above you.
Spinks’ most important advice is to give people the help they need, or the help you have time for, instead of the help they ask for:
If you decide you want to give advice, do so on your own terms. If they ask for a coffee meeting and you don’t have time, send an email. If they ask a question that needs a detailed answer, refer to one part of it or send them some helpful links. Feel free to say openly that you didn’t have the time to fully respond by saying something like, “Thank you for reaching out to you. Your question requires an answer, which, unfortunately, I do not have time to fully answer because of my work. However, you may find the following books / links / thinkers / YouTube videos helpful. “
As we wrote recently, one-line emails are more useful than no emails, and they save you the guilt and anxiety of simply ignoring the request. After reading the request, you will spend less time sending a quick tiny response than if you ignore it and worry about it.
While we’re here, one more tip for those looking for advice: if you’re young and poor, remember that the free coffee or lunch you offer means much less to the person who already has a job. Conversely, if you’re a big influencer and ask for a free one-hour consultation, you’ll have a better chance of inviting your advisor to the trendiest lunch they’ve eaten in an entire year.