informational interviewInformational interviews are a great way to network, meet professionals in your field and gain advice about moving forward in your career.  Informational interviews take of the pressure of interviewing for particular positions and instead allow you to ask questions, meet more informally and build relationships.  You’re not asking directly for a job but rather seeking information and advice from another professional in the field.

Create a Targeted List:

Make a target list of people you’d like to meet with. Start with friends or acquaintances of your own personal network, and then think about your target companies, people you’ve worked with in the past, etc.  You may not be able to get a meeting with all of them, but there’s no harm in trying.

Attempt Contact:

Of course, if you’ve been given a contact by someone you already know, it will be much easier to get in touch with someone. Professionals you don’t personally know will take a little more work. Try to find the professionals on LinkedIn or call the company and ask to speak directly to them. You might need to be persistent and a little creative in figuring out how to reach them.

Meet with Several Contacts per Month:

The more contacts you can meet, the better. Meetings are usually harmless and low-pressure, and enable you to build your network and increase the number of people who can keep you in mind in cases of new job openings.

Be Prepared:

Come prepared with an updated resume, business cards or writing samples in case your contact asks for your resume or wants to see your work. You should also arrive prepared with a brief introduction about yourself and your professional experiences. Remember your contact shouldn’t feel like you’re asking for a job, so don’t offer your resume unless they invite you to do so.

Ask Questions:

Informational interviews are your chance to ask questions about the industry, your contact’s company or position and ask for any advice they can give you about breaking into the industry or transitioning to a different area in the field. You can ask them how they got into the field, what brought them to their current company, what a typical day looks like for them, etc. Just make sure to respect your contact’s time and stick to the time frame you previously agreed upon.

Toward the end of your informational interview, it’s okay to ask if based on the information you’ve shared with them they have any advice for you about breaking into the industry, landing an internship and so on. It is also beneficial to ask if they would be willing to keep you in mind if they hear about any available positions. You can also inquire if they have any other contacts in the business they think could be helpful or willing to talk to you.

Follow Up:

Don’t forget to send a thank you letter or email immediately following your informational interview. Remember, they’ve taken time out of their busy day to speak to you. Try to follow up every so often or find ways to briefly keep in touch so you continue to build the relationship.

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