Help me help you
If you've been given a link to this page, it means that you have reached out to me or are considering asking for a bit of my time. I love connecting with folks who are learning to code, thinking about applying to Ada Developers Academy, or are looking for a junior developer job in Seattle.
I get requests and advice seekers in my inbox every week--this post is designed to help you and I get the most out of our new relationship and to help ensure that you get what you need from me.
Usually, you don't really need advice.
You might be tempted to send me an email along the lines of "I was wondering if you might have any advice for me...", but it's incredibly difficult to give generalized advice to every person. Eventually, that advice becomes generic (which is why I write blog posts like the Ada blog master post!) and tiring to write. After many years of responding to emails like these, what I've discovered is that 90% of the people emailing to ask for advice don't actually need advice. They need practical help. Lucky for you, I love giving practical help!
This leads me to the first thing you can do to help me help you: be clear about what you really need from me. Be as direct as possible. You won't seem cold, demanding, entitled, or any other negative attribute for stating what you need from me. In fact, I will appreciate that you respect my time enough to go ahead and just tell me what you want me to do for you!
Here are some examples of concrete ways to ask me for help:
- Will you review my resume?
- Will you review my LinkedIn?
- Can you help me write my talk proposal?
- Will you proofread my cover letter?
- Can you have a video chat with me to talk about
- Will you introduce me to
Y personor connect me with
Let's meet virtually.
Many people feel weird about asking a stranger or acquaintance for help with nothing promised in return. To combat this, oftentimes someone will reach out and offer to buy me a coffee or beer in exchange for my advice. I love the sentiment and kindness behind this offer, but trying to meet with everyone for coffee dates can really take a big chunk out of my time, not to mention the time getting to and from the meeting spot! As a freelancer, this time is time that I am not paid for.
I can often help you remotely via email. This is especially true if you are seeking help with resumes or applications. Email is great because I can read your email, think about it, and respond thoughtfully.
Another option is a video chat. I really enjoy video chats because it gives me a chance to connect with you and have a conversation virtually face-to-face. Please ask for a video chat if you are looking to tackle an issue or need advice on something that requires a lot of explanation. Along with the request, please include three time frames for a chat that will work for you so that we can schedule a Hangout or FaceTime session!
[Note: If you really want to meet in person, we can do that! Some things are better in person. Please be willing to meet me near my home or office and be clear about what times and days work for you.]
Don't leave me hangin'.
If I've agreed to help you out in some way, even if it's just a short email exchange, I look forward to hearing what the outcome of your situation was! If I help you, not only do I feel like we've developed a small relationship, but also I want to get feedback about what is successful and what isn't. To that end, please send me a follow up emails with news! This is especially true if you are applying to a school or boot camp. I can't count the number of times I've helped someone apply to Ada and then never heard back one way or the other about if they got in! The only thing worse than being left in the dark is hearing that my advice helped you through the grapevine rather than from you personally.
Our mutual agreement.
So, in light of everything above, let's agree to help each other have a great relationship. Below I propose a few tenants for us to agree on together:
- We will ask for what we need, politely of course.
- We will reply to email in a timely manner (within a week) or send an email with an estimate of when a reply can be expected.
- We will help us schedule time together by being specific about when we can do a video chat or meet.
- We will put
[TIME SENSITIVE]at the start of our email subject line, if appropriate.
- We will follow up with the results of the actions we took, positive or negative.
- We will return the help we got by helping others when we can.
Sound good? If so, go ahead and shoot me an email. Mention that you've read this post! I'd love to hear from you!
Cate Huston's blog post about advice & mentoring emails
Sacha Chua's Learning From People blog post