The Right And The Horrible Ways To Ask For Advice
Asking for help is great, but it’s insane how so few people know how to do it the right way.
“Reach out! Contact people for coffee chats! Find a mentor!” This is the same advice you’d hear from teachers and career counsellors, and well-meaning career professionals who’d be invited to do talks with us. “Ask for advice from more experienced people,” they would always say, tacking on this advice at the end of their talks as though it was an afterthought.
This was all in direct contrast to what I learned at home.
As a woman of colour raised in an asian household to a Filipino dad and a Chinese-Filipina mom, I learned to be self-reliant.
My parents supported me and were always very present in my life, but we never had those ‘let’s sit and talk about what’s bothering you’ Full House-type conversations.
My parents kept their heads down, worked hard AF, and kept to themselves. They never thought to ask for help from anyone. They also had a very irrational and somewhat irritating deference for anyone in authority. If that person had a fancy job title, worked in even a faintly famous company, and let’s face it, if they were white and a man, my parents revered them.
I hate to admit it, but I internalized a lot of those same attitudes. Whenever I’d meet someone who was a self-proclaimed writer or teacher or in any position of authority, I’d automatically become a meek and stilted fangirl. Ugh lol.
So when it came to reaching out to strangers, particularly strangers who were “more successful”, I knew I should be doing it, but the thought terrified me.
I was sure everyone was too busy. That they’d never want to waste their time on someone like me. That I wouldn’t be able to hold an intelligent conversation, or that I’d just be bothering them. I’ve worked hard over the years to break down many of these thoughts, but it’s taken a looooong time and I relapse often.
When I did work up the courage to contact someone for their advice, I’d spend hours crafting the perfect message, fretting about our meeting, and then summarizing everything I learned into meticulous notes to make sure I captured it all.
The irony is that now that I’m on the receiving end of many ‘coffee chat’ requests, I realize I should have worried less and reached out more.
Because the truth is that successful people ARE busy and they get requests for their help ALL THE TIME.