I am not moving beyond Informational Interviews: What Am I Not Doing Right?
A student in a professional certification program, who is currently going thru career transitioning, recently asked me this question. He had been getting those informational phone chats and interviews, but was becoming increasingly frustrated that ‘nothing ever came of them.’
So, I reached out to my networking circle to learn what other career advisors are doing to help their clients in prepping them with the informational interview process.
Here are some interesting insights that seem to be the easiest and most effective:
- Debrief the Meeting: If it is a phone chat, take some notes while you can as your primary focus is on listening. If it is in person, you can still jot some notes down without getting distracted. Once you are out of the conversation, immediately brain dump your impressions of the interview, next steps, follow up and make note of any new people (s)he recommended you talk to. And if (s)he offered to introduce you, nudge her in a couple of days politely to do so.
- It’s all about the Attitude: Most people approach interviews and informational interviews as them going into the Big Bad Company trying to prove themselves and make themselves the most attractive candidate of all time for the position or potential position. I’d rather suggest that you do yourself a huge transformation by flipping the script on that attitude a little bit and approaching it as almost a partnership. In other words, YOU have something to offer them, too, rather than hanging onto the idea that you HOPE they give you a job someday…
- It’s also about the Approach: Taking the approach note above one step further, knowing what questions to ask in your partnership-your conversation is half the battle. Crafting insightful questions that can give you insights into the person, their role, and their goals for the next 6-12 months and their pain points/what keeps them up at night when it comes to their job. This then gives you the opportunity to be on the lookout for helpful articles, resources or potential introductions for them so that you can ultimately be a resource for them, rather than you just looking for info on the job they said might be opening up in the next few months. You have to gauge the tone of the meeting, of course, but questions like, “How can I be of help to you over the next few months?”, “What are your goals for your role over the next few months?” and “What do you really need help with to push those goals past the finish line?” can give you good insights into what they need and what matters to them. Put those things in your debrief notes and be on the lookout for resources that can help!
- Mindset: I should also point out here that this mindset of helping others and giving more than you get is very important. I am not suggesting all of the above because it’s super strategic and conniving, but it’s because you genuinely want to help the person and you genuinely believe that giving more than you get ultimately pays off big for your career, your relationships and others than just asking or getting would alone.
- Follow Up: Make sure you find out what an appropriate timeframe for follow up would be and mark your calendar… and then actually follow up on that day! I can’t tell you how many people have told me they have heard nothing from an info interview and when I dig a little deeper, I find out that the person asked them to follow up on a specific day and they didn’t! I know for some people it may be uncomfortable, but trust me- you’ll earn the respect of the person who realizes you do what you say you will do when you say you will do it- a really excellent quality for a future employee, if you ask me.
There are lots of ways to really make the most out of networking connection and informational interview. If I had to give the top tip, I’d say it really is the mindset tip above. If you can cultivate that way of thinking and really embrace it, I believe – you’ll start to see serious results.