Is your strategy to apply for as many jobs as possible, working all day and all night submitting your applications that seem to disappear into a vortex, never to be seen or heard again, and then being proud that you sent out 50 applications that week?
Whoa, Nelly! If that’s your strategy, you will burn out! Looking for a job is not intended to be a full-time job. Less is more, and I will address this in another blog on how to manage your time in a job search and set meaningful, realistic goals.
The most successful and effective job search strategy is networking. I’m not talking about event networking; I’m talking about career development informational interviewing, which is one-on-one networking. Research repeatedly reveals that networking is the best way to land a job and more often than applying to a job posting, attending job fairs, or randomly sending out your resume. (Joanne’s tip: only give out your resume if they ask for it.)
What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is a meeting where you learn about someone’s real-life experience and insights into a field or company that interests you. NOTE that it is NOT a job interview or about you; see my tip about only giving your resume if they ask. It is imperative to focus on them and your questions and get the information to see if it fits your interests or personality. The meeting should last up to 20 minutes unless your guest requests more time. It is best to always be mindful and respectful of their time.
Informational interviews help you learn about different careers, meet like-minded people, and expand your network. In addition, being on the other side of the interview desk and sharpening these excellent skills help when someone interviews you for your next job.
First Step: Who do you want to be?
Clarity is the foundation of your job search. Before connecting with people, you must be clear on who you are, your skills, accomplishments, and your value proposition. See my posts on identifying your transferable skills and how to write your accomplishments.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I staying in the same field?
- Am I looking for a career change?
- What would be my dream job?
- How would I introduce myself?
- What am I proud of?
- What am I curious about?
- What did I want to be when I was in elementary school?
If you’re considering staying in the same job, imagine your ideal industry or company for work. If you’re considering a career change, what careers best suit your transferable skills?
Second Step: Pull together your list – how to find people.
This task might sound overwhelming. Here is the order to start:
- Your friends and family. Let’s say you wanted to interview project managers. Are there any project managers in your immediate circle? Do they know or work with any?
- Check LinkedIn and search for project managers in your 1st connections.
- Look up the companies where you would like to work and look for project managers.
Third Step: Make a list of 10 to 12 people and put them in a spreadsheet or favourite system for follow-up.
Now be aware that this is a numbers game; not everyone will connect with you. On LinkedIn, for example, although there are 900 million members worldwide as of 2023, about 16.2 percent (according to Demand Sage) access LinkedIn daily, and 48.5 percent do so monthly. So don’t despair if you don’t get a reply.
The most effective way to reach new people is to connect to the 10 or 12 people on your list. This approach is less intrusive, and people will be curious and look at your profile. Before welcoming them to look at your profile, be sure you look like a regular, professional person. You might get 6 or 7 people who will accept your request. That’s when you send them a thank you note and ask for a short meeting.
How do you request an informational interview through LinkedIn?
There are many ways to request an informational interview. Today we will focus on LinkedIn.
Once they have accepted your invitation to connect, you can email them. Here’s an example:
Thank you so much for connecting with me. I found your profile and career path very interesting and would love to have 15-20 minutes of your time to ask you about your experience. I am researching your company (or career), and your insights would be beneficial.
Of the six or seven who accepted your request, if two or three say “yes,” that’s a pretty good number.
Preparation for the meeting
Preparing for an informational interview is about creating a list of thoughtful and insightful questions rather than simply asking them what they do daily. Since they agreed to take time out of their busy schedule, ensure that they feel the experience with you is worthwhile and positive.
Ways to prepare:
– Research the company they work for
– Research the person. What is their career path?
– Why did they choose this career path?
– Do you have any shared connections?
– Where did they go to school?
What happens in an informational interview?
While it might be tempting to start by asking your first question, begin more thoughtfully by thanking them for agreeing to meet with you. Let them know you are mindful of their time by saying: “As I wrote in my message, I’ll keep this interview to 20 minutes or less.”
Then let them talk about themselves to show them that you are interested in them.
Ask personal questions like:
– How did you land in this field?
– What do you love or hate about your job?
– Are you working on any big projects right now?
Be prepared to talk about yourself. Hopefully, the interview will be a back-and-forth conversation. Do not, however, use this time to sell yourself. Instead, consistently bring the conversation back to them and save time for digging deeper into your questions.
Be mindful of the time; they might want to continue. Thank them for their time and information. If you have a good connection with them, you could ask for contacts they can share. Be prepared that they might not. Be polite and thank them. The interview might end just there, or the following might happen:
- They ask for your resume (do not offer it to them)
- They think of a position that could be of interest
- They want you to speak to someone in or outside their organization
Be prepared for any or none of the above.
Always send them a thank-you note, just like a regular interview, and let them know what you learned was invaluable and, if you can, give a specific example.
Do keep in touch, but don’t overdo it. And DON’T reach out to see if they know of any job openings UNLESS you see an opening at their company or at a different company. In that case, let them know you are applying and see if they have any advice.
Informational interviewing, done correctly, will teach you a lot about a specific job or industry, introduce you to great people, and hone your interviewing skills. And, if you make a good impression, who knows where this can lead?
I would love to hear from you.
Comment below on your experience or thoughts on informational interviews.
You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments and ideas about other topics you want me to address.
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Until next week,
I remain your sounding board.