Please stop asking to pick my brain. 5 less annoying ways to get advice from experts


At least once a month someone asks me if they can “pick my brain.” Can we just talk about how weird that phrase is? Where did it even come from? It sounds incredibly painful. Does it require an anesthesiologist?

To a lot of professionals (myself included), being asked this question can be insulting. This is a big complaint in the social media manager community and I’ve heard professionals in other industries complain about it as well.

The majority of the time, the brain picker offers the brain pickee a cup of coffee in exchange for them getting to ask an infinite number of questions of the expert. The expectation is typically an hour of your time. So let’s break this down:

$3 cup of coffee x 1 hour = $3 an hour.

People get paid a lot more than that to be experts in their field.

Not only can it be insulting, it comes across as selfish. You get tons of information and the expert gets a grande Pike Place.

I don’t want to seem like a complete Negative Nancy here. I genuinely do enjoy helping people, I have just learned that I have to put limits on what I say “yes” to. I’m always open to sitting down with friends and family (if you have my cell number, you fall under this category), people working with nonprofits, kids needing help with their social media or parents needing help with their children’s, and students.

And I completely understand why people request this of experts. They want to learn and that’s great, but there’s a better way that’s more respectful of everyone’s time. Here’s how you can still get the information you want, without performing the classic brain pick:

(1) Ask the expert for their email address and email them your questions. I guarantee they’ll be a lot more receptive when the correspondence can be done on their time.

(2) Ask the person for their hourly fee. Then pay them appropriately for their time.

(3) Research your questions online. Google is your friend. Chances are the answers you’re seeking have been answered thousands of times on various websites.

(4) Find classes, either online or ones you can attend locally, on the topic.

(5) Find a mentor. This involves establishing genuine relationships with people. Once there’s an established connection, professionals will be more open to helping you.



  1. Simplicity, the organizing company, has a brilliant solution: they offer a workshop on becoming a paid professional organizer.

  2. Quite the juxtaposition from this author’s previous piece about how she herself networked into a career change. You’d think with that background one would appreciate the value and benefit of “paying it forward” to those who are up and coming, career switchers, etc. The most offensive suggestion here is the idea of paying people to meet with you. Followed closely by “don’t bother me, go talk to Google”. We’re all in this crazy thing called life, career, jobs, etc.; we should be all to willing (and dare I say even be flattered!) when someone asks for our advice, help, opinion, etc. I’m surprised to see this article on a site so geared towards a young adult audience who could really benefit from tips on how to network effectively, rather than being told to buzz off (unless your in my phone directory, then I guess we can talk).

  3. I was disappointed with this article. While I agree the term “picking your brain” sounds pretty weird, the concept is to seek out knowledge from an expert. I know that I am always flattered when someone reaches out to me to gain insights. Perhaps a better focus should be how to be more effective when seeking advice from others. I agree that before you invite someone for coffee to seek their advice, you should prepare ahead of time by doing the things you mentioned here like doing research online and coming with some well thought out questions. Networking is a two way street. I accept as many meetings as I can, not because I hope to get something for it but because I want to help others. If I can share my insights with someone to make them better, I have made the world a little bit better in the process. I almost always walk away from the experience a better person as well. Perhaps the author is just doing it wrong.


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