A Mentor’s Lament: “Help Me, Help You”

Editor’s Note: This post’s initial audience was readers in the blogging / social media / amateur web design career path. But the advice is a great read for everyone regarding how to ask for advice, and to develop a relationship with a mentor.

Having been in the blogging/social media/amateur web design worlds for many years now, I get asked questions. I get asked questions a LOT. And 99.999993 percent of the time, I’m more than happy to help out. Whether it’s something as small as “what’s a widget?” or as big as “how do I turn my love of social media into a career?”, I’m all too happy to dole out advice and nuggets of wisdom as Someone Who’s Been There.

Although every now and then, I am really, really tempted to just send someone one of these bad boys:

But I don’t, because I’m a nice person. … To your face.)

KIDDING. Anyway, from all of these questions, I’ve noticed a pattern in the types of inquiries that tend to solicit the best responses from me. I’m going to share in the hopes of helping future aspiring bloggers/social media professionals/web design amateurs/etc. get better information AND make it easier on the advice-giver at the same time. Win!

So here are a few quick tips for how to (successfully) reach out to a prospective mentor, or even just someone you aren’t besties with but would love some help from.

1. Keep It Short

If this is the first time we’ve ever exchanged e-words, sure, tell me a bit about who you are. But those eight paragraph emails full of your life story and ramblings about your awful coworkers and possibly way too much information about that fight you and your boyfriend got in last night? Not necessary. At least not until we meet IRL over drinks. (Lots of drinks.) And frankly, I don’t even know how to begin to respond to it all, so… I might just not.

2. Make Me Care

Don’t just email me a question without any pretext. What’s our relationship, or what do we have in common? Basically, why do I want to take time out of my day to help you? And yes, flattery may get you somewhere, but honesty, clarity and sharing a funny cat video will get you farther.


Don’t just come with an impossibly broad subject, like “how do I start a blog?” Ummm. Do you mean what platform to use? How to identify your voice? Choosing a topic or niche to focus on? What am I supposed to do with this?

Ask a specific question and start from there. It’s too overwhelming otherwise, and your question’s going to sit in my inbox annoying me for two weeks until I finally shoot off a half-assed response. Instead, ask me how I got involved with SMC-DC, or what theme I use for my websites and why, or what strategies I employ in my personal branding.

I want to help you! Truly, I do, and I’ll go out of my way to do it. But if you follow these tips, I guarantee my response will be the best I could ever give you, and I’ll be happy to have given it.



About the Author: Rachael King graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in Spring 2006. She is currently a Social Media Account Executive at iostudio, a full-service ad agency with offices in DC and Nashville. Currently Rachael is traveling the country, speaking to and teaching the 54 states and territories of the National Guard how to use social media as a marketing/recruitment tool. She is also President of Social Media Club – DC, Events Manager for 20SB, and a co-organizer of the annual meet up Bloggers in Sin City. Follow Rachael on Twitter.

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