How To Have A Great Informational Interview | Alyssa J Freitas: How To Have A Great Informational Interview

July 18, 2018

How To Have A Great Informational Interview

We constantly hear that it is essential to network outside of our current company and to learn more about other industries and roles. Some refer to this type of networking as an "informational interview" and while it can certainly take on that formal tone, it doesn't have to. Just by having a curiosity to understand more about how others have built their careers and to build relationships, you can network externally in a more informal manner.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Do you want to expand your professional network and learn more about different industries and roles? Informational interviews are the perfect way to get a taste. Learn how to reach out to and conduct an informational interview with the right professionals
While this advice is shared often, we're not exactly told how to take the first step in connecting with others. Today, I'm going to share with you how to take that first step and tell you about the effective methods I've recently employed.

First, figure out what you hope to give and get

Are you looking to join a particular company? Transition to a specific role? Or broaden your network in general? Figuring out your purpose of connecting (and being able to express it clearly and succinctly) will help you to identify the right people and easily explain why you want to meet. Remember, while it may be a learning experience for you at the onset, it is important to figure out how you can add value for others and make the experience worth their while.

Identify the right people

I don't know what people did before LinkedIn (check out my three part series on LinkedIn here, here, and here). Asked around for recommendations and hoped to get lucky, I guess. Recommendations are a great way to meet others, but if you don't have a large pool, LinkedIn is perfect. With LinkedIn it is incredible how many people you can find and quickly determine if they are someone you'd like to hear more about. Based on what you hope to give and get, you can tailor your search. 

I like to try and find a commonality with the person I am reaching out to, so I start by looking at my 2nd degree connections (you have a mutual connection who can introduce you), people who I am in a LinkedIn group with, or people who went to my college. For example, if you're part of a professional club, join the LinkedIn group so you learn about members who you may have not met in person. 

When it comes to your school and connection degrees, you can used advanced search by clicking the search bar, clicking on "people," and then using filters.

Send a message

The message you send should be short, to the point, and easy to respond to. If you're reaching out on LinkedIn, you can send a connection request with a line like:
Hi Jane, I'm a fellow Women's Finance Club member and am starting out my career in the banking industry. It would be great to connect and introduce ourselves!
 Once they connect with you, you can send a direct message with a more specific ask:
Hi Jane, thanks for connecting! Your profile caught my eye because of your work with xyz- it would be great to introduce ourselves and to ask you about the start of your career in the banking industry. Please let me know if you have time for a brief phone call this coming week. Thanks!
If they are in the same city as you, you can also ask for an in person meeting by offering to buy them a coffee.

The actual meeting/call

When you first sit down with the person, thank them for joining you and tell them the purpose of the meeting. For example:
Thank you for meeting with me today, I really appreciate it! I'd like to ask you about your career and learn what advice you have for someone who is starting. I know there are many different paths available, and I am looking forward to hearing your perspective. 
Then you can let the conversation flow and have some prepared questions to facilitate the discussion. I love these suggestions from Career Contessa. Having categories of questions will keep you on track (example: early career, best strategic decisions they made, day-in-the-life) and you won't feel like you're running through a list and drilling them.

A question I would make sure to ask is "Is there anyone else you would suggest I reach out to to continue learning more about what we discussed." This is a great way to get a referral and continue to expand your network. It's also good to have a clear follow up action for after the meeting.

After the meeting/call

Of course you'll thank them in person or on the phone at the end of your meeting, but the follow up after that is even more important. Send a message like:
Hi Jane, thanks for meeting with me today! It was great talking with you and I appreciate your advice. I look forward to keeping in touch and meeting with xyz as you suggested. Please feel free to use this email address to make the introduction. Have a great weekend! 
Then you can set a reminder to follow up with them a few months down the road to check in and keep the relationship going. Send them an article relevant to what you talked about, or invite them to an event your attending, or just say hello and ask them how the project is going that they told you about. 

What are your best methods for reaching out to others? How do you seek out mentoring conversations?

-AJF
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