Whether or not you’re looking for a job, informational interviews are beneficial to your career. Not only do they give you an opportunity to learn about a different job function or industry outside of your own, they also help to grow your network in unforeseen ways. For job seekers, informational interviews are particularly beneficial because they open doors to potential employment opportunities. While one should never go into an informational interview asking for a job, there are ways to plant the seed with your contact and nurture the new relationship such that when an applicable position opens up, you are top of mind.
As an NYC career coach who has transitioned across 16 different business units throughout my own career, I understand how to leverage connections to get the job and have helped many clients do so. Here are a few tips on how to manage informational interviews so that when the job you want becomes available, you’re the first to hear about it.
Plan Your Outreach
When deciding who you want to do an informational interview with, think about realistic ways to reach this person. Do you have a mutual connection that can be leveraged to help make an introduction or does the person belong to a networking organization? If it’s the former, ask the contact if you can use his or her name as part of your initial outreach. If it’s the latter, see if the networking organization has any upcoming events that you can attend. These types of organizations often do, particularly around the holidays and during the summer. Use the opportunity to meet the person so that you can reference the meeting later on.
Before going into any informational interview, it’s important to be as specific as possible throughout the process. Be specific in whom you choose to meet with (note: ideally, the person would be a potential hiring manager or someone who has influence on hiring decisions), what you’d like to ask and the type of role you’re interested in. For example, if you’re a brand manager in the financial services industry who is looking to transition into consumer goods, find the best person available to speak with and be clear in your desire to learn more about brand marketing for consumer goods since that is what you’d like to do. This information, accompanied by your tailored résumé, will help the person you’re speaking with know your background and where you want to go next.
After the interview, send a brief note to whomever you met with, thanking them for their time and the information they provided. Also take the opportunity to reiterate your interest in the job function and mention your appreciation at having the person keep you in mind should any applicable positions open up. Don’t make the note too long or the person likely won’t read it. Keep it succinct yet grateful.
Stay Top of Mind
As you continue to do your job search, make sure to keep abreast of new job postings from the person’s company. That way, you can reach out to this person directly once you see something of interest. While doing this, stay in touch every few weeks or months by sending relevant articles or information that you think may be worth sharing. Don’t send anything obvious that the person likely already saw. Instead, be strategic about your outreach by finding something from a unique source or by adding a unique angle when sending. The idea is to show your interest and what you can bring to the table, so be thoughtful about every communication and don’t reach out too much. There is a difference between staying top of mind and being a nuisance.
With strategic, mindful actions, it’s possible to go from informational interview to job interview. It may not happen overnight but by steadily building and engaging with your network, you will continuously open doors to a number of possibilities.
Melissa Llarena is a firsthand career transition expert (having gone through 16 business unit changes in 10 years) and president of Career Outcomes Matter. Sign up for her blog at www.careeroutcomesmatter.com.