Informational interviews your gateway to the inside scoop
The best way to gather the whole story about the industry and job you are targeting is by setting up informational interviews with individuals working where you plan to be positioned. Engaging in informational interviews will help you to gain valuable information about careers in your field and expand your network at the same time. The key difference between informational interviews and job interviews is that you have more control over the agenda when you schedule an informational interview.
Although the context of an informational interview is less formal, dress as you would for a job interview, and have your resume with you. Even if you are asked for your resume, offer to send it, unless of course, it is really obvious that the person would prefer to have a copy of your resume during the interview. Use your judgment to decide based on the momentum of separate interview. Bring a couple of pens and some paper to your informational interview. There is no need to write down everything discussed during the meeting, but there will be information that you want to remember, for example, the names, phone numbers, or any other contact information or leads provided during the conversation.
Start by asking people you know for contact information
The key reason for asking your existing contacts for names is that referral calls tend to grab the attention of people faster based on the fact that most people are interested when they hear the name of someone they know. If you are not able to pull together the right links from your existing contact list, grab the yellow pages and contact professional organizations or associations in your region, and plan to attend the next meet and greet organized by the Chamber of Commerce in your community. Most people are happy to talk about their jobs and to share a wealth of information when asked for advice.
Always point out during your initial contact and in the introduction to your informational interview that you are not specifically looking for a job with this company. State that you are seeking advice and information from successful people in their industry, and specify during your initial contact that you are asking for 20 minutes of their time. Cold calls should start with your name, a brief explanation about your skills and/or experience, and the purpose of your call. For example, “My name is (your name). I have worked at (or recently graduated from) (specify) and have exceptional skills (extensive experience) with/in (specify). Would I be able to have 20 minutes of your time to ask you about your job, and ask your advice for someone looking for a position in your industry?”
Plan to help the other person help you
Do not plan to use a standard script for different interviews. Instead, prepare questions that you know would interest the person you are meeting and about topics that they can provide information that you have not been able to gather during your research. For example, if you have read that the company has been awarded a government contract recently, plan to ask for details about the contract, including the number of people that the company plans to employ, or the companies that they think related employment may arise.
Prepare relevant questions that demonstrate that you have researched ahead of time, and never ask questions that are answered on their web site! Plan to ask about the types and number of opportunities that exist in the industry, and the potential for future growth. Also, ask what advice they could give for someone planning to work in the field. Busy people agree to informational interviews based on the trust that you have taken the initiative to contact them seeking career advice. Rather than ask for a job, it is essential that you do not leave until you have asked for at least two more names of people in the industry that you can call.
The most important point to remember when planning and conducting informational interviews is to stick to the time limit. Offer to leave at the 20 minute point, and plan to wrap up the discussion. If the person you are interviewing is engaged in the discussion at the 20 minute point, let them complete their thoughts before closing the meeting.
Plan to send you thank you card or letter within 36 hours. When you plan to contact the person you are interviewing for additional information about a specific job that was mentioned during your meeting, state this in your cover letter. For example, “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me and answer my questions about pursuing a career in the (specify) industry. I have benefited greatly having met you. (next paragraph) I will contact (name) about the position with (company name) this week. I appreciate you giving me his name. I have also enclosed a copy of my resume for future reference should a position become available with (company name).
Use the information you gather to land your dream job!
Keep a list of all the people you have interviewed, and notes on the questions covered. Highlight the main things that you gained from each interview, and note your positive and negative impressions, what plan of action you can make at this time? This rich source of information will help you manage your career beyond the job search stage. Sharing information with folks in the industry is equally as important when you are employed and looking for opportunities to advance your career.
1.Have you identified who you would like to speak to, or companies of interest?
2.Have you called your existing contacts to gather the names of appropriate contacts, or have you researched information using the yellow pages and web sites of associations in your target industry?
3.Have you contacted your target specialist to schedule an appointment?
4.Have you researched and created a list of ten questions that you would like to ask?
5.Have you sent a thank you card to thank your target contact for the helpful information they have provided?
Brenda Koritko is the author of I Manage Me Career Planning a timely ebook providing techniques to help you achieve your immediate career goals with benefits throughout your career. imanageme.com
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