Prior to meeting with ANYONE who has volunteered to help you in your career search, you need to do your homework. Your research should lead you to a comprehensive understanding of the:
Company, Industry and
This article will focus strictly on researching the person you are meeting with. For information on researching the job, company & industry, click here.
It is amazing how many people do not properly research the individual they are meeting with prior to meeting with them to request assistance. With a limitless number of resources available through the Internet, completing your research is relatively simple. Before we discuss “what” information you should be looking for, let me first explain “why” you should be seeking this information:
1. You will better understand how the person can help you
You will have a much more clear perspective of how a person can help you once you understand where the person went to school; what degrees and certifications they hold; what jobs they have had; and, which companies they have worked for. Once armed with this information, you will be able to ask much more directed questions and request more specific leads and introductions. In addition, people know much more than you think they do. Most professionals have held positions in many different industries and job functions. If you understand their background, you may be able to ask them about these different experiences
2. You may be able to identify some commonality in your backgrounds
Most people that you reach out to will be incredibly busy. The stronger the affinity they have with you the more likely they are to help. For instance, I went to Harvard University. I am certainly willing to help a Harvard grad, but there are hundreds of thousands of them. If the person also played college basketball and is from Long Island, I am increasingly inclined to help them, because we have that in common.
3. You will better understand how you can help them
That’s right. I said “help them”. You should consider any relationship you develop a two-way street. A person may be helping you with your job search, but you may also have something of value to offer. It might be access to (1) information (e.g. university library); (2) expertise (e.g. golf, mathematics); or (3) people. If you are capable of helping someone, they will be more likely to help you.
4. You are less likely to make a fool of yourself
You only have one chance to make a first impression. Don’t screw it up by not doing your homework. I have had many people reach out to me and lose my attention in the first 30 seconds by indicating how little they know about me and my background. They screwed up my name; did not know where I went to school; asked me questions about companies I have never worked for; referenced people that I have never heard of. The list goes on. Once they make one mistake like that, I tune out. If they can’t invest the time to research me, why would I risk introducing them to important business relationships of mine.
So now that you understand WHY it is important to research the person, WHAT information should you look for and WHERE can you find it. Here are the things you need to know:
- School (i.e. undergraduate, graduate)
- Degrees (e.g. MD, MBA, MPA)
- Certifications or Specialties (e.g. CPA, CFA, Vascular Surgeon, Patent Attorney)
- Companies they have worked for
- Roles within those companies
- Professional interests (e.g. boards they sit on, professional associations)
- Recreational Interests (e.g. charities, sports)
- Family (e.g. what spouse does, where kids go to school, background of parents)
- Company they currently work for (i.e. news, stock performance, industry trends)
Ten years ago, getting this type of information would have been incredibly difficult. Today it is easy. In case you haven’t heard, there is this great new invention. It’s called the Internet. USE IT!
- Google: This is the first place to start. Search for news stories and bios on company and nonprofit websites. Make sure to search Google News. Make sure you Google different versions of the persons name (e.g. Ronald, Ron, Ronnie, etc.).
- LinkedIn: they have become the online business resume for people. There are millions of profiles that are publicly available.
- Facebook: although you do not often have rights to see much information, it is always worth a try. Some people do have public profiles that reveal a lot of information about their personal interests
- Alumni Databases: if the person went to your school, they may have a profile in the alumni database if you can’t find one on LinkedIn
Now that you have done your homework, click here to Know What You Should Ask For