I am a huge fan of informational interviews. What is that, you ask? An informational interview is a fancy way of saying that you’re requesting a meeting with someone who may be able to share insights or information with you that could help in your job search. (Click HERE to read more about info interviews and HERE for specifics on getting started.) In fact, I’ve even advocated for job seekers to talk to people you DON’T think can help you.
Talking to people about their jobs and companies is a great way to (1) learn about people and organizations and (2) introduce yourself, your skills and accomplishments to people who will (hopefully) like you and want to help you with your plans.
Every time I talk to clients about informational interviews, I always emphasize the importance of approaching contacts NOT as a job seeker, but as someone who is simply gathering information. If you can convince yourself AND the person you want to meet that you don’t expect the meeting to result in a job, you are much more likely to be successful securing appointments.
Let’s face it, if you approach as a job seeker, (“I am looking for an opportunity working in _____, and I would like to talk to you about positions at your organization.”), your contact will not want to speak to you unless he or she actually has an opportunity in mind. No one wants to disappoint another person, so if your target contact has no job in sight, he or she is likely to suggest that you send your resume to HR.
That tact will not help you get your foot in the door, and does not connect you one-on-one to a potential ally. So, be polite, but persistent. Insist that you are gathering information, “not expecting a specific opportunity as a result of our meeting,” and push to talk to contacts in person. If your targeted contact is not interested, ask for a referral. (“I appreciate that you are too busy to meet. Is there someone else in your department who might be able to speak with me?)
The fact is, most people love to talk about themselves, and few of us have a willing audience for our stories! Ask yourself, if someone called you and requested that you share your story and information about your organization (assuming you weren’t working with classified information), what would you say? I would bet that most of you would be willing to help.
So, take the plunge. Find some contacts and land some informational interviews!
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