Many of us have had someone tell us while we are doing our job search or working on a career transition, “You should do some informational interviews!” Easier said than done, but here is some guidance on how to make the most of the opportunity when it comes to informational interviews.
1. Identify folks who are in the industry/companies you are targeting or have past experience in.
It is ideal to speak with someone senior but it is also OK to speak with someone who is at the level at which you are seeking to enter. Don`t spend much time with folks who have no ties to what you are looking to do.
2. Understand how you/your request will be perceived by the person you ask.
They are probably thinking that you are (a) making a “soft ask” to be considered for potential opportunities at his/her firm now or in the future, (b) looking for referrals to other people/firms who may have opportunities, and (c) seeking feedback on your story or prospects for a job in his/her field. Given that, send them a resume beforehand and consider including in the email your abbreviated elevator pitch (see below) and the 3-4 questions you would like to discuss during your call/meeting. This will communicate your level of preparation and make it easier for them to give you good helpful guidance.
3. Be as ready as you would be if it were a formal interview. The worst thing you can do is to be unprepared and approach it solely as an informal session. Your first goal is to impress this person. Do some research ahead of time on the person you are speaking with and their firm so you can speak intelligently as to why their industry/firm is a good fit for you and why their perspective would be helpful. At the start, they will probably ask you how they can help, so lead off by telling a concise version of your story. (Assume they have not read your email or need a refresher). This should be your elevator pitch and it should include:
- I am looking for XYZ-type position in the ABC industry/firms
- I am passionate about this line of work because…(give 1-2 examples that demonstrate you have acted on your passion such as activities, coursework, hobbies, personal experience, etc.)
- My skills and experience to date that suggest I can be a strong candidate and contributor are…(give 1-2 examples that demonstrate you can do the work and if you don’t have a compelling story yet then focus on what you are doing to develop those relevant skills
- Longer term I would ideally like to be doing XYZ
- The things I have done and people/firms I have spoken to so far regarding my job search are the following…
4. After you give your elevator pitch (which should be 3-5 minutes max), share the questions that you would appreciate their feedback on
- How compelling is my background/story relative to the types of jobs I am pursuing in this industry and how can I improve it?
- Are there folks you would recommend I speak with and if so, can you facilitate that connection in some way (e.g. providing contact information, an email introduction, etc.)
- How can I best position myself for opportunities at your firm in particular down the road (If you impress this person and they do have near-term opportunities, they will raise it with you, so it is probably best not to ask directly if they have anything right now.
- Are there any other thoughts/guidance you have given what we discussed?
5. Have a follow up plan. Send a thank you note, add that person to your Circle of Advisors on Gotta Mentor and keep them engaged in your progress at least once over the next two months by sharing what you have done since (especially relating to any advice or referrals they gave you) and asking for further guidance.