Very good article in HBR by a fantastic expert, Dorie Clark, on how to reach out to someone you admire. You could do this for a variety of reasons – mentors, jobs, funding, etc.
Here’s an excerpt:
Make it clear that you have no expectations. High-profile people get bombarded with requests. For example, Tim Ferriss’s email newsletters contain a caveat that he can’t respond personally to messages because he receives 1,000+ per day. Even if your “pitch” is well crafted, your idols might be in a busy period and simply don’t have time to connect. You get extra points, then, for empathizing with this situation and addressing it up front.
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” my New Orleans friend wrote me, “and absolutely no expectations because I don’t roll like that. But I was compelled to reach out to you.” Too many strangers reach out with extraordinary levels of entitlement, asking for free coaching, or a significant introduction, or a review and critique of their work. When you, in contrast, show an awareness of your hero’s circumstances, explaining that you don’t want to take up too much time in their schedule, you set yourself apart in a positive way.