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'Pick Your Brain Over Coffee' -- Is It The Best Approach?

Workin' Girl

Have you ever slid into your favorite influencer, industry expert, or entrepreneurs' DM asking to pick their brain over coffee?


Slowing raises a hand.

You may be wondering why you never received a response or why you received a consulting rate sheet as a reply.

From afar, we live vicariously through other people's social feeds, studying the way they move so we can mimic their steps to success, but when hitting the "like" button isn't enough you slide in the DMs to ask if you can “pick their brain."

Nowadays, this question has become a topic of discussion on and offline about the proper ways to set a meeting with someone you admire to get their insight or advice. Many of our favorite women to follow have cried on their Insta Stories or had a long rant on Twitter about the exhaustion that comes with being asked to “pick their brain."

We asked a few women whose inboxes get filled with inquiries to share their feelings on this unpopular question and what advice they give aspiring entrepreneurs, young professionals, and influencers on how to properly reach out for the advice they are looking for.


Chelsea Williams

Her Occupation

Founder & Chief Strategist of ThatsChelsea.com

Location

Washington, D.C.

Pick Your Brain Requests

Chelsea's wellness site has garnered her opportunities to speak on panels and to be booked as talent on television. The busy writer receives around three to four inquiries to “pick her brain" a day and feels that the request needs to be more formal.

How She Responds

“I typically respond explaining why I don't participate in these types of meetings. I then offer to provide a Calendly link that includes my schedule and rates if they want to continue the relationship."

Why She Doesn't Think The Pick Your Brain Approach Works

“It took some of us years and thousands of dollars to acquire this knowledge. This is worth more than the price of a cup of coffee. I have two degrees; I'm certified in my field and pay for continuing education courses throughout the year to maintain my credentials. Employers pay their employees for their time and expertise. Why is that we view entrepreneurs and independent contractors/consultants as unworthy of the same treatment?"

Her Advice

“In my opinion, one of the best ways to approach someone is to be present. Show up to a workshop, conference, or meeting that they are either attending or hosting. Tell them what you have learned thus far from their platform and/or experiences. Ask if they have a consulting fee and let the person decide if they want to turn the relationship into mentorship. I feel more comfortable mentoring someone who has been in my circle, rather than someone who I have never interacted with."


Michiel Perry

Her Occupation

Founder of BlackSouthernBelle.com

Location

Charleston, SC

Pick Your Brain Requests

“For every person who doesn't like the pick your brain email, there is also someone who loves it," the Southern Belle admits.

The former lobbyist left her Corporate America job to start up her website BlackSouthernBelle.com and, in four months, gain $50K worth of sponsorships. Her lifestyle website sent her to London for speaking engagements, as well as public appearances throughout the South.

How She Responds

"The first thing I do is Google their name and then connect on LinkedIn. I try to respond within a week and schedule something over the next 6-8 weeks or ask them to follow up in a few weeks if my schedule is crazy. I find that asking people to follow up in a few weeks is a good way to filter people who are serious about the request or just doing because they are sending out a blast of emails."

Her Advice

“I would tell people who are trying to connect with busy people to try and work with people who fit their personal and professional personality. If you are shy, connect with a mentor who keeps a low key social media profile. If you are the life of the party, send a bold email to a person who fits your style. Picking your brain can work for everyone but it is best when the strategy is targeted to fit your style and the style of the person you are reaching out to."


Marielle Legair

Her Occupation

Personal Brand & Publicity Strategist & Founder of Women Who Influence

Location

New York

Pick Your Brain Requests

The author of upcoming book, The Personal Brand Bible for Ambitious Women moved from her hometown of London to establish her career in the Big Apple. Marielle receives around four to five “pick your brain" questions a month about her career in PR or her move to a new country. “I'm willing to help because I know what it's like when you want to make a big career or life change," she shared.

Why She's Willing to Help

"The question in itself doesn't bother me, but people need to get better at networking. We all need a strong support network and I wouldn't be where I am today without the guidance of mentors. But the key that's all too often overlooked, is to add significant value before even needing to make an ask. That's why I wrote The Personal Brand Bible for Ambitious Women because I've encountered so many women who don't know how to network effectively, which will have an adverse effect on their long-term success."

Her Advice

“Adding value and taking the time to build a rapport before 'needing' something is key. Otherwise, you look like a user. Plus, there are so many alternative ways to fill knowledge gaps before approaching a busy person, such as attending seminars, listening to podcasts, and reading career profiles online. There's nothing more annoying than a random person contacting you to ask a basic question that can just as easily be found online!"


Kandia Johnson

Her Occupation

Communications & Visibility Strategist

Location

New York

Pick Your Brain Requests

As Kandia builds her consulting business and brand that has taken her to Africa to lead workshops and share her expertise, she filters her "pick your brain" requests each month by fielding questions.

How She Responds

“There's a difference between someone looking for free business advice versus the person who needs a mentor or business bestie. At first, I'm leery because many people forget that investing in yourself comes at a cost. To get to any level of success you want, there will always be an investment or sacrifice. You can't go to a therapist for free, you can't grow a six-figure business for free, and you can't join a gym for free—so how bad do you want it?"

Her Advice

“With the power of social media, you can take time to study that person, add value to the relationship and build a relationship them. sometimes you can attract mentors by what you create. For instance, let's say you heard them speak at an event, you could write or vlog about the top 10 things I learned from [he or she]. You could also invite them as a guest on your podcast or to speak about their experiences on your FB live or YouTube show."


Whitney Headen

Her Occupation

Managing partner of 19th & Park Creative Agency & Founder of The Life Currency

Location

New York

Pick Your Brain Requests

Whitney's past experience working for some of today's most popular media brands has made her someone people want to connect with. “It begins with someone saying they admire the work that one of my companies has created and [they] would love to pick my brain about how they can apply some of the same strategies to their businesses or personal brand," she shared.

How She Responds

"I usually always answer with 'I offer 15-minute consultations' and after that, we can discuss the opportunity to join one of the five coaching sessions I conduct per month. If the person is really interested in gaining information, they almost always book the session with me. I feel extremely blessed to be in a position to offer help and expertise to those who don't have the same skills, however, I am consistently protecting my magic to make sure I'm not taken advantage of."

Her Advice

“Approach people for informational interviews and come from a place of wanting to learn and listen versus a place of trying to gain an outcome or a tangible result of the interaction. Also, mentorship has to be an equal exchange, I've never gained a mentor by asking them to mentor me. I've made myself able and opened myself up to learning and absorbing so that the relationship naturally fosters itself."

With the advice from these women you are well on your way to securing a meeting and maybe even a mentor with a woman who inspires you.

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