By: Ria Kalinowski
Networking is a crucial, and often underutilized, method for finding your next job or co-op. Informational interviewing is a form of networking that helps you gain valuable connections and insight into your target industry. Learn about company culture, what tools, skills, and/or certifications are essential to the industry, and how influential people got where they are.
Where do I start?
Create a list of target companies where you would like to work. Use the “People also viewed” feature on LinkedIn company pages or the “Similar Companies Nearby” feature on Buzzfile to create a list of companies that you are interested in learning more about. Find professionals at those companies or similar companies that hold positions of interest on company websites or LinkedIn. Use the “See alumni” tool on Wentworth’s LinkedIn page to find contacts with whom you already have something in common. You can also conduct informational interviews with professors, friends, family members, or colleagues or ask them for recommendations of people to speak with.
How do I reach out?
Connect with people you want to speak with through email, LinkedIn, or over the phone. Use emails4corporations to find people’s email addresses. You can ask to connect with people on LinkedIn with a tailored message or message them directly if you are members of the same group. Use the Informational Interviewing handout and the Informational Interview Email Samples handout for guidance on what to say.
How do I prepare?
As an informational interview is a chance for you to get advice, you will be asking the majority of the questions. Thoroughly research the company and person you will be meeting with to ask intelligent questions. Explore their website, their social media channels, and any current news stories about them. Don’t ask questions that you can answer with a quick Google search. Ask open-ended questions and follow the TIARA Framework (Trends, Insights, Advice, Resources, Assignments) to allow your connection to talk about themselves. Asking questions in this order “maximizes the chance that that stranger becomes an advocate by the end of the conversation”.
What does an informational interview look like?
An informational interview usually lasts 20-30 minutes. Don’t take up too much of your connection’s time and make the location convenient to them as they are doing you a favor. Although it is best to meet with them in-person, informational interviews can also happen over Skype or the phone. In-person meetings help you to make a more lasting impression so remember to dress and behave professionally. Oftentimes, you will meet at your connection’s place of business which gives you more opportunity to view the company culture first hand. Have your most recent resume with you but don’t give it to them unless they ask. Remember: you are not there to ask for a job, just to ask for advice! Ask them your questions, take good notes, and don’t go over the time limit that was set. Thank them at the end, ask to stay connected with them over LinkedIn, and see if they are willing to recommend anyone else that you can contact for additional advice.
Using the notes that you took, send a thank you note within 24 hours. Reference something you spoke about or a resource they wanted you to check out. Attach your resume to the email, if you hadn’t already had a chance to provide it, asking for their feedback. Make sure to follow-up with the resources, assignments, or contacts that they provided to you. Set a recurring monthly calendar alert to reconnect with the individual and mention how their advice has helped you.
Over time, you will develop a network of people who you can reach out to when it is time to conduct your next co-op or job search. You will also gain valuable information about what direction to take your career and what it takes to get there.
Picture Source: wikiHow