Here’s my advice as an experienced executive. Don’t approach people like me for basic advice and information. It’s not that I don’t want to help you, I’m just too busy. I don’t have the time. In addition, you’ll likely be very nervous when you talk to me, and won’t know what to ask or say to me. So instead, remember this. The average person knows a lot.
If you’re starting your career, anyone who’s done something for 4-5 years can tell you much of what you want to know about the industry or job that’s new to you. They face the realities and challenges in their industry and job every day, so they can tell you what will be helpful to you about these.
For instance, when our young recruiters want to understand an industry that’s new to them, we teach them to approach low- to mid-level managers to get the basic information they need. For example, for the latest mobile application developments, talk to a product manager in a mobile app company. To understand a particular consumer product or service, talk to sales and marketing people in that industry. They don’t have to be a department head or VP.
But the biggest reason to approach people at lower levels is that they’re much easier to reach and are more willing to talk to you. You can just invite them for coffee or drinks, and keep it informal. Let them know upfront that your purpose is to “pick their brain” for information. I’ve done this 100s of times, ever since I started my business career. In my experience, people will rarely decline you. If they’re in their 20s or early 30s, they’re flattered that you recognize and value their experience and knowledge. Which I actually do.