So Can I Pick Your Brain?

You probably don’t realize how much people are actually willing to talk about themselves in front of other people (in most cases).

If you ask “so can I pick your brain?” to a random person at an event, you will probably get a really weird look and a firm “no”. But if you walk up to him and say, “It’s a cool venue isn’t it? How do you know about this event/what brings you here?” chances are you will find out a lot more about that person than you would have possibly expected.

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Honestly people love talking about themselves, because first of all, it’s about themselves, meaning: it’s more fun, more important, and more relevant. Second of all, you should help them to understand better how great they are and how interesting their stories are, so they will be even more willing to share their experiences, if not already. And how do you do that? First you listen, then you relate to them, you find common grounds, and you resonate with their stories.

Recently I realized it would be shame if I don’t know many people from other teams (or don’t know them well enough) at my same firm. So I made a rule for myself: every week, reach out to at least one person more senior than myself from another group at the firm, and try to set up brief conversations at their office or suggest grabbing coffee/lunch together.

For the past few weeks, I talked to a MD who came from McKinsey who tells amazing stories about how money market funds broke the buck and how he was personally involved; I talked to an Associate in the alternative space who had been through 3 mergers since he joined the firm and had really clear understanding of where he should be heading for; I talked to the VP who started off in my same team and worked in Tokyo, London and HK and had amazing advice on strategically negotiating and planning a favorable career path; and I talked to this very experienced MBA and CFA charter holder who has become less aggressive with work as priorities are given to his personal life at the moment.

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Actually in the beginning I was concerned that senior managers (especially from other teams) will not be willing to spend time with junior staffs. But I was told that for a manager it is one of their primary responsibilities to transfer knowledge and mentor younger professionals, across the board; and some of them will even be flattered that you come to seek their advices.

So come to think about it, is it difficult to do?

No. If you can fit all the client meetings, conference calls, weekly reports and email communications (+ checking gmail, SMS, facebook, iphone apps) into your day-to-day schedule, you WILL find a time to have that conversation for sure. And if you don’t, it’s not because you don’t have time. It’s because you are lazy.

And finally, remember that it is your own life not other people’s. So whatever advice/recommendations you get, please take it critically.

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  1. Peter Kang
    July 29, 2010 at 12:42 am

    Found you via Linkedin. You seem interesting. If you’re adventurous enough, a fellow NYer extends an invitation for tacos and beer.

    • July 29, 2010 at 11:03 am

      Thank you. NYC’s a big city but at the same time quite small (I’m sure you know what I mean). Chances are I’ll see you soon at some events.

  1. February 18, 2011 at 8:36 pm
  2. February 18, 2011 at 10:51 pm

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