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Informational interviews help build a professional network and increases knowledge of the corporate world. This networking process can became one of your most valuable tools to use before transitioning into new employment.
The process is remarkably simple, but takes perseverance and patience. Unlike posting re-sumes with virtually no human contact, face-to-face networking builds relationships, which is the key to getting your foot in the door.
The process starts with just one personal contact in the corporate world. This person could be anyone you know or someone your family or friends connect you with. The call goes some-thing like this: “Hey, I’m changing jobs soon, and I was wondering if I could buy you a cup of coffee sometime and ask you some questions about your industry and your career.”
That’s it. Nothing threatening. No major investment on either end. You simply give the person an oppor-tunity to talk about himself or herself and get a free cup of coffee as a bonus. Note that asking for a job is not part of the pitch. You only want to get a foot in the door, learn what you can and develop a relationship. Directly asking for a job can put too much pressure on the inter-view and can be a roadblock to your objective.
With coffee in hand, be prepared to listen, ask thoughtful questions and take notes to help demonstrate that, indeed, you are really listening. This is your chance to learn about these people, their jobs, the companies they work for and the overall industry they’re in. How did they come to work at the company? What positions have they held? What are their professional goals? Ask advice on what skills are required in their field and how you might craft your re-sume to pique their company’s interest. Of course, you’ll have a copy with you, and this gives you a chance to share your experience and talk briefly about your career.
After you’ve established a rapport and are close to wrapping up the meeting, ask for two or three additional contacts from the same company or elsewhere. Reiterate that you’re not ask-ing for a job, but are seeking information to help prepare for a transition. If your meeting went well, your contacts won’t hesitate to refer you to other people they know and trust. Often, they’ll facilitate an introduction for you, making it that much easier to set up another interview. As you finish up your coffee, be sure to get a business card so you can follow up with a hand-written thank-you note. Taking time to send a note will go a long way toward cementing the positive impressions you’ve made.
Once you’re done — repeat. The objective is to build as broad a network as possible. If each meeting allows you to set up two or three other meetings, your network and knowledge will ex-pand rapidly. All it takes is one of your contacts to remember you when a position becomes available. Of course, employers have varying hiring processes, and you’ll still probably need to forward a current resume and go through the interview process. But getting to know a compa-ny and its people before you interview may give you a competitive advantage over numerous resumes they may receive for the position.
This process takes time and patience. Expect to be at it for several months. In contrast to the passive process of posting and emailing resumes, attending informational interviews is ac-tive, ultimately exposing you to more people, positions, companies and industries. This active process to networking will put you in greater control of your future and give you an edge dur-ing your transition.
For more information, contact the Career Services Advisor at your campus.