How to learn from your career role model

Do you have someone who you secretly admire from afar in your professional Learn from your Career Role Modellife? A career role model? Do you find yourself watching them and wondering how they do what they do? Why do they do what they do? And how did they get to where they are now? What if you could learn directly from your career role model right now? Why not ask your career role model all the questions you have harboured away?

What could happen if you reached out to your career role model?

Depending on who your career role model is it could be a scary thought to reach out and build a relationship with them. They could be a lot further up the career ladder than you are and they might not know who you are. They could know exactly who you are and you already have a relationship with them which makes reaching out to them much easier. They may be a bigwig with a hugely public career that seems too far up in celebrity land to even consider being able to contact them.

Regardless of who your career role model is, where they are located and whether you know them or not, ask yourself this question:

What is the worst that could happen if I contacted my career role model and asked them for a coffee right now?

Would the world end? I’m guessing in reality the worst that could happen is they don’t reply or say no. And if that’s the case, potentially they are so busy they didn’t get to your message. Or if they say no maybe they’re not the person you need to learn from in the first place.

There is every chance they will reply in some way or another. Whether that be by email or messenger, phone call or agree to an in person meeting. There’s every chance just by asking, and asking in a smart way, that you will get something back.

With that in mind, you need to be clear, concise, professional and strategic about how you approach them.

Keep all of this in mind when you’re the person someone reaches out to in the future for advice on their career.

How do you approach your career role model?

  • First, be clear on what you want to gain from their expertise. List no more than 3 bullet points of the top areas or questions you would like to ask this person.
  • Second, what can you offer them? It might be you can connect them to someone they would like to meet, or you could share an article they wrote with your connections on LinkedIn, or something completely different. Always be willing to give something back as well as ask them for favours.
  • Third, do your research. What social media platforms do they prefer? What do they like? What interests do they have? If they’ve written papers and articles read them. If you know someone who knows them ask their advice on how to contact them, or ask them to introduce you. Understand how busy they are and be clear on how much time they realistically may have for you – it could be 20 minutes, it could be two hours.

With all the information above decide on the best way to approach your career role model. Make sure you’re clear on what key areas you want to ask them about are. Always be willing to give something back. Identify the best way to contact them – if they’re active on Twitter it might be that you engage in conversation with them there and ask them a question or start commenting on their tweets. The same with LinkedIn. If your career role model is someone in your industry or company, who do you know who could help you contact them? Go out of your way to make the interaction easy for them, for example, a coffee near their offices or be flexible on time.

When you’re ready, reach out. Hopefully they’ll say yes and you can learn from their experiences and advice. If you do get a meeting, phone call, or even email conversation and if it feels valuable, try to develop the relationship. For example, asking if they would mind meeting again in a couple of months, or if they would mind if you emailed them now and again – being careful not to demand too much of their time.

Show initiative, ensure the interaction has value to both parties and respect their time. They could provide pearls of wisdom in 5 minutes that make a huge impact on your career and development, or they could introduce you to someone who becomes a key member of your professional network for years to come.

You won’t know until you reach out.

Over to you

If you could meet with your career role model, what is the top outcome you would be aiming for?

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