One of the benefits of maintaining your own blog independently is the freedom to write about issues that rise to the forefront--and are sparked by casual conversation. Today, "Max," a former student of mine wrote to me and raised an issue worth repeating: In a tough market, how do you gauge a safe move? And how do you pursue your career goals when you know what you want to do but the market isn't cooperating?

In Max's case, he spent a year working in a prestigious New York law firm--then decided he was ultimately more interested in working in corporate finance in a role frequented by bankruptcy attorneys. His observation: "I know I don't want to practice law, but if school will help me land this role than that's the path I am going to take--especially since everyone I know who has my "dream job" has worked as an attorney!"

I advised Max to apply the brakes before going to law school and seek out the advice of other people who work in his dream job before applying. After all, law school is an enormous commitment of time and money--and there may be more efficient routes he can take to achieve his career goals.

Over the years, I've found that a vast majority of people enjoy it when you show interest in them and their work. After all, many people love to talk about themselves.

That being said, asking for advice can be tricky and awkward, especially if you are asking people you perceive to be experts. For this reason, and because the following experts have provided insight on this issue with great eloquence and candor, here are three posts I highly recommend.

  1. Be Wary of Pedestals
    From social media guru Chris Brogan (whom I don't know yet but hope to meet soon, and am now slightly less intimidated by--you'll understand why after reading the post)
  2. "How to Ask Questions and Not Be Perceived as a Dumb---"
    Dan Erwin, a management consultant, shares a great strategy for developing relevant questions. Equally important: he provides information on "who to ask," how to "make the ask" and "how to follow-up."
  3. How to Write an E-mail that Generates a Useful Response
    The Brazen Careerist Penelope Trunk shares tips on "how to ask by e-mail."

Do you have any additional tips on best practices for asking for advice and information? If yes, please share...