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There are several people in my field that have inspired me. They, I am sure, are completely unaware of who I am but from reading their blogs and websites, I would like to learn as much as I possibly could from them and have them help me guide my career in a better path long term.

Since I do not personally know these people and they likely have no clue I even exist, what would be a good approach to contact these people in an attempt to learn as much about my field as possible.

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This is called an informational interview. You want to make the contact easy and pleasant for them (if local, you offer to buy them coffee; you don't nag them if they don't respond). Have a clear set of questions for them, don't make it hard on them, and don't make it look in any way like you're trying to use them to get a job. Thank them for any time they spend on you. And, if their advice helps you get a job in the future, send them another thank you.

  • Very interesting link, thanks for the information! I am in no way shape or form attempting to get a job out of it. I just have a passion for my field and want to be among the best in it and what better way than to learn from the people I consider to be the best? I don't think they would be local, as I said I just read their blogs and realize that they have a massive amount of information and would just like to pick at their brains and see what makes them think along these lines. – Paul Muir Mar 28 '14 at 21:36
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The best approach I know of, so far, is to offer them something. Ideas probably are the best thing you can bring to their table.

  • Look at what the people you consider mentors do, get to know the things they're invested in and brainstorm
  • Make a list of 10 ideas for everyone that you would consider to be a mentor
  • Mail them the list, explaining that you find them a great person and a valued mentor so far and wanted to give something back

(And they really were mentoring you already, though passively. Keep that in mind.)

These ideas don't have to be overly original or special or genius. Just apply your perspective, take the time to really think it through and find some things you can really stand behind. From full-blown synergies, to minor usability fixes, everything is the right thing.

Why does this work?

This approach works, because even the most succesful, genius person can't think of everything, so they value new stand points, new input. And giving it freely, without strings attached, is a sign of appreciation they probably won't see often, so you stand out from the crowd of either silent admirers or people trying to work an angle.

How would you know?

I'm taking this advice from some, mostly passive, mentors I have, in particular Napoleon Hill, James Altucher and Jerry Colonna, who at some point or another all say this exact thing.

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If you ever find you are in the same city as they are, just contact them, introduce yourself and how you know them ("I work in XXX, read your blog and am impressed."). Then ask them out for lunch to pick their brains.

The worst they can do is decline, but even so, they will be flattered and may offer an alternative way of getting into contact.

No, this of course won't always work - the gurus will usually have enough to do and full calendars. But again, what is the worst that could happen?

  • I am hoping to start attending some conventions and I am certain I could meet a lot there and will definitely attempt this! – Paul Muir Mar 28 '14 at 21:40
  • Great idea, good luck! However, people are often extremely busy at conventions and may have the entire time booked far in advance. Perhaps you can just introduce yourself and make a date for a later time. – S. Kolassa - Reinstate Monica Mar 28 '14 at 21:42
  • Well, part of the issue is none of them are local. If so than that would make things a lot easier but I am about to be moving to a black hole for my career and I am blessed to be lucky enough to get a job there since it happens to be my home. – Paul Muir Mar 28 '14 at 21:45
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Another approach would be using online communities that are more social than basic the Q&A here. There are plenty of them out there but I'll just focus on www.linkedin.com.

LinkedIn tends to draw people of an affiliation together and allows them to communicate freely and personally. You don't have to worry about a voting system that will curtail your ability to communicate seamlessly with your peers and can swap a bunch of detail between similar folks of your nature with out having to achieve any kind of vote record.

Also, don't count out FaceBook as long as you concentrate on a professional side of your life and leave very little trace of your personal life. Don't forget that there are sub-communities on both that you can seek out and join.

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