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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 responsibilities?
  • 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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In this post, I talked about the beginning of my job search and some of the mistakes I realized I was making, particularly sending most of my resumes into a big black hole never to be seen or heard of again. Since I didn’t feel like delaying my HR career any longer, I decided to change my strategy. I went back to the basics.

In order to find and obtain your dream job, you have to learn as much as possible about it. I began by simply googling “What is Human Resources?” and went from there. It may seem simple, but sometimes even if you think you know the answer to a question, you might not. Besides, a little review never hurt anyone.

Other possible searches can be more specific. Search about different departments, concentrations, job titles, salaries, companies, etc. This will tell you what you should expect when applying or interviewing for a job, give you a clearer idea of what position is right for you, and it will prepare you when dealing with tough questions during an interview. If your search goes anything like mine, you’ll end up overwhelmed with information and sites needing to be bookmarked.  And it doesn’t stop there.

I recommend searching for ways to get involved with the professional community as much as you can. My researching and reviewing stage began leading me towards searching about HR volunteering opportunities, local HR businesses, and HR social communities and meetings, such as SHRM. Don’t be afraid to email people with your questions. Inquire about volunteering at their company, local meetings they attend, etc. I have found many professionals to be extremely open and helpful. Just remember not to be pushy about it and try to make it as mutually favorable as possible. You’re asking a favor of them; they don’t have to help you.

In addition, start to get super involved on social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Connect with professionals in your field of interest and ask them if it would be okay to email them with a couple of your questions. Follow companies you want to work for, read and comment on blogs, and stay on top of the latest and greatest news in the industry. This is a full-time job in itself, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall behind. It gets easier over time and you’ll develop your own strategies for dealing with the constant flow in information.

For me, the most helpful job search strategy has been networking through close family and friends. The people who know you on a more personal level are more likely to advocate for you and set you up with some great opportunities. If you are lucky enough to be closely connected to a professional in your field of interest, try to set up a phone call, meeting, or informational interview. Again, these people are busy and making time for you, so make sure you let them know how much you appreciate their help.

After revising my job search strategies, I am spending a large portion of my time researching and getting connected to the HR community. As a result, I don’t always have time to apply to many positions. But I don’t feel too bad about that. When I do search for positions now, I am pickier about what kind of job I am looking for and my search has become a lot more focused. If I apply for a job now, I know it’s something I want and am qualified to do — not just another shot in the dark.

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Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

If I’ve learned anything over the course of my recent job search, it’s the importance of networking. I think networking is something everyone accepts as an important process in getting a job, but very few actually utilize their resources available for networking as much as they could. I’d like to share one way I’ve used LinkedIn groups to my networking advantage, and maybe you’ll find it will work for you as well.

I love LinkedIn. In fact, I love it so much I added a link to it for you in the menu of this very blog. Once I discovered the wonders of LinkedIn, I wanted to talk to everyone I knew about it! Did they have an account? Were they a member of this group? It was the Facebook for professionals! Of course I wanted to connect with everyone I knew. What I didn’t expect was how many people didn’t even know what LinkedIn was.

If you’re one of those people, click on that link I set up for you and create your profile asap. After filling out a decent amount of information, begin searching for connections under the “People You May Know” menu. You can instantly send a connection request to those people. Connecting to others may be a little trickier. Unlike Facebook, you can’t just request to connect to random people. If you try, LinkedIn will ask you how you know that person and if you have no real connections, it’s time to take another route. This also goes the opposite way. You want to be accessible to people trying to connect to you as well.

The solution? Joining groups!

I’ve joined Alumni groups related to my university, HR specific groups, company groups, even common interests groups. I’ve found the more specific the group, the more likely you’ll be able to make a connection. For example, try joining a group specific to alumni who graduated from your university with your major. Or if there’s a specific sector of HR you’re interested in (Talent Acquisition, Global, etc.) try searching for a group related to that. Once you’re in these communities, it’s easy to connect to your fellow members by simply indicating your shared group.

Ok, you’re in the group. Now what?

Once you’re in the group, there’s a number of ways you can utilize your membership beyond connecting with its members. I recommend getting daily notifications of the group’s current discussions. This could get overwhelming if you join a lot of groups, but you’ll quickly discover the ones you need to concentrate on. Read the articles and discussions people post, and try to jump in every now and then. Even if you feel like you have nothing to offer, you’ll find many people are more than willing to offer their advice or opinion.

Through my LinkedIn groups, I’ve been able to gather useful information and talk to top professionals in the HR industry. I’m more prepared and have a better idea of what I can expect, what is required of me, and what I’d like to focus on in my future career in Human Resources.

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