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Informational interviews are an amazing and necessary tool to use during your job search. If you’re not doing them you are missing a great opportunity to not only network, but to further yourself and your knowledge about the industry you’re looking to transition into.

Where do I even start?

Networking is the key to obtaining an informational interview. Getting the interview can be challenging if you are not a well-connected person. Start by asking your close friends and family if they know anyone who would be willing to meet up with you to discuss their career path and your interests in the field. Go to job fairs or networking events and ask for business cards. Reach out to people on LinkedIn who share a connection or alma mater with you. And if you do land an informational interview, don’t forget to ask that person to connect you with more professionals who can offer their advice and guidance.

Ideally, the interview would take place in person, but if that’s unlikely, set up a 30 minute phone call. The important thing to remember is that the other person is doing you a favor, so be flexible and give them options. And if you’re lucky enough to meet for lunch, buy their meal.

Ok, so I have the interview set up. Now what?

Research and prepare! Do not go in thinking you are just going to wing this. Prepare for your informational interview just as you would a real job interview. Research the company, research the professionals you are meeting with, and prepare a list of well thought-out questions about everything relevant. Most likely the conversation will flow naturally, but especially for a phone interview where time is limited and you lack that face to face connection, you want to make sure that the most important questions are answered and you present yourself like the professional you are.

Can you give me some examples of questions I might ask?

I have a list of questions I like to ask, but I usually find myself revising them based on my research and the professional’s area of expertise, which you should, too. But here are a few I almost always find myself asking after introducing myself:

  • As _______ at _______, what are your main duties and┬áresponsibilities?
  • What do you like most about working at/in __________?
  • What is the biggest challenge you face as a professional in ___________?
  • Out of all your experience, what has contributed the most to your success?
  • Could you recommend any resources to help me develop myself and my skills for a career in _______?

Remember to NEVER, EVER ask for a job. This is not a job interview and the professional has no obligations to talk about one. If they offer to take a look at your resume, great! If not, it’s ok to ask them to give advice for resume revision or if they would mind keeping it on file in case something comes up in the future. Just don’t be pushy. This is a chance for you to show them your potential as a future professional in their industry. Who knows? If you make a good impression, the possibilities are endless. At the very least you will have a connection at that company, which means a lot these days.

I already have a job. Should I still be doing informational interviews?

Yes! Even if you are gainfully and happily employed, I would 100% encourage conducting informational interviews within your company. Not only does learning more about your company and the people you work with make you a better, more well-rounded professional, but in the case you wish to transition to another department in the future, you will already have the connections in place.

And don’t forget to follow up and thank them!

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