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Advice on Getting Advice (Guest Post from Ask A Manager)

August 21, 2010

Alison Green, AskAManager

The following is a post from Alison Green, also known as “Ask A Manager.” At her popular blog, Alison answers questions on everything from management to preparing for a phone interview. Alison is not only one of my blogging inspirations, she’s become a good friend and I’m so happy she agreed to dispense some wisdom (and a really terrific resource) here.

Etiquette when you’re writing to an advice columnist or otherwise asking for help

As someone who writes a career advice blog, I spend a lot of time giving people help for free.

I’d estimate that maybe 10% of these people ever write back and thank me, or even respond at all. Probably less than that.

Now, I get plenty of personal benefit out of my blog, so I’m not trying to position myself as a martyr. But the fact remains that an awful lot of people are getting my time for free and never acknowledging it in any way. I even answer questions that I don’t publish on my blog, simply because I can’t publish everything but still want to help people when I can, and I’ll sometimes rush to answer something immediately because their situation is time-sensitive. And these people say thank you at about the same low rates (maybe very slightly higher).

When people do write back to say thanks, I love it. Some people also take the time to write later on and let me know how their situation turned out, and that’s the best possible reward. It feels awesome.

But most people? Crickets.

I mentioned this to a friend recently, and she said that if an advice columnist answered her question, she might feel like she was bothering them a second time if she wrote back to say thank you — that they’re Busy And Important, and they wouldn’t care about her little thank-you.

I wonder if anyone ever reaches career heights where they don’t care about hearing thank-you. Maybe they do … although I doubt it.

If someone takes their time to help you, say thank you. Responding with silence is rude. (And it’s also not smart. I will go way out of my way for people who express appreciation, so they should at least make the Machiavellian calculation that it’s in their best interest, if nothing else.)

Free guide to preparing for interviews

Now, on a whole other topic, I have something free for YOU. I’ve just created a guide to preparing well for a job interview. If you’re job-searching, or might be job-searching in the future, I urge you to check it out. You’ll get tons of step-by-step advice on how to prepare, tips on overcoming nerves, questions to practice answering, and a supplemental video version in case you’d rather watch than read. If you’d like a copy, you can sign up here, and I’ll email it directly to you — free:

Free How-To-Interview Guide from Ask a Manager

(Full disclosure: In exchange for giving you the whole guide for free, I’ll put you on my email list so that you’re occasionally notified about other resources I create in the future. But you can unsubscribe at any time, including immediately.)

Many thanks to Erica for letting me offer this to you, and good luck to anyone out there who’s dealing with this very difficult job market! (Just remember to say thank you…)

  1. August 21, 2010 5:30 pm

    Alison helped me with my resume and did an excellent job – she is the best! If you need help, advice, etc contact her. She is great at what she does and has a big heart. Thank you Alison!

  2. August 21, 2010 6:37 pm

    Aw, Peter. You know I have tiny shriveled heart.

  3. JessB permalink
    August 22, 2010 10:33 pm

    I agree that Alison is awesome. She helped me out twice, and was so lovely.

    I’m completely stunned that people don’t write to say thank you! I always would (and did). I often think that people are really busy and I don’t want to bother them, so I don’t ask any more questions or anything that needs a reply, and I always count myself lucky if I get a ‘you’re welcome’ email in response, but it’s not expected.

    “I wonder if anyone ever reaches career heights where they don’t care about hearing thank-you. Maybe they do … although I doubt it.”
    An excellent point- I love it when people thank me, so I thank other people.

    Great work Erica and Alison.

    • August 24, 2010 1:02 pm

      Thanks! I think everyone loves a thank you.

  4. August 23, 2010 6:37 am

    I have about the same response rate as Alison’s. I do find it strange that when I take the trouble to write a detailed answer, I don’t even get a quick, “Thanks!” back.

    Oh well. Obviously, I do it because I like it, and for all the extra spam.

  5. Joe permalink
    August 24, 2010 12:07 pm

    Methinks these are the same folks that complain about companies not responding or acknowledging their applications/resume.

  6. Suzanne permalink
    August 24, 2010 1:31 pm

    I get the same as a recruiter; I’ll occasionally get requests for advice and no thank you for redoing a resume or helping people job search. Tells me a lot about why you’re still unemployed, frankly.

  7. August 26, 2010 2:13 am

    Librarians too! We answer some fascinating reference questions, and it’s great to know if we’ve given an answer which helps (or even an answer which doesn’t help).

  8. Henway permalink
    October 31, 2010 11:35 am

    Yup, I wholeheartedly agree. Whenever I help someone, hearing thanks just fills my heart with joy. Whenever I don’t get a response, i feel they’re ungrateful and a little bitter. So I always try to say thanks whenever I have the chance


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