If your confidence is shot and you feel like you aren’t appreciated at work…
Or if you’re discouraged because you suffer from “runner up” syndrome and keep being told you’ve been outperformed for promotions or new job opportunities…
Hear me out.
You are not the problem; you’re either in the wrong field or role.
How did you end up in the first place? Did you assume this job was the next step toward your ultimate career goals? Were you tempted by the salary increase or benefits because it was the best offer for you at that time?
If roadblocks are keeping you from finding job fulfillment, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate your “plan.”
This is where informational interviews come into play.
An informational interview is an informal meeting with someone in your field to learn about what they do, how they got there, what they think about the company they work for and their industry, and what you could and should be doing to move in that direction if that’s where you’d like to see yourself in the foreseeable future.
In other words, if you plan to walk into an informational interview and ask him or her to help you get a job, you’re doing it wrong.
This may be the first time you’re hearing about informational interviews, or you may be no stranger to informational interviews. No matter where you are in your career or job search, you could always benefit from a few more informational interviews.
Start With Your Family & Friends
When was the last time you shared your career goals with your family and friends? Utilizing the closest people to you is the first step to meeting new people in your field or industry. This is also the most casual approach to networking you could take.
Start by privately reaching out to family and friends to catch up. Don’t be afraid to discuss the issues that are inspiring you to start networking in the first place. And finally, ask if he or she knows anybody in your field or industry that you should speak with. You’ll never know until you ask.
Reach Out To Colleagues
Clearly, you should exercise caution when considering talking to co-workers or supervisors about your networking efforts. Colleagues you should consider reaching out to include former co-workers and supervisors, former classmates and instructors, or others in your field or industry that you’ve met through mutual connections.
These particular colleagues may not be the best sources to schedule an informational interview with, but they’ll know others higher up and more established in your field or industry and can make an introduction for you. You’re more likely to get a response from a stranger when a mutual connection can initiate the conversation for you.
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Look Into Professional Associations
Have you researched trade or professional associations that are relevant to your field? These are great resources that can be used to expand your network. Most have informational websites, and many will have local chapter contact information. All it takes is a phone call to find out what resources are available and share your intentions of scheduling informational interviews with those willing to share more about their career journeys with you.
Granted, some professional associations require a paid membership to gain access to their network or directories. You may want to consider joining one or two of these associations if they offer value beyond a member directory, such as local events or training opportunities.
Establish Your Top Companies
Narrow down your search a bit by identifying the top companies you’d love to work for. Each company has a unique mission, vision, set of values, and culture which all play a role in job fulfillment. Consider your ideal company location, size, and environment.
Not sure how to start targeting employers? This Employer Targeting Guide will help!
Then research these companies using LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Google to make sure they align with your ideal company’s mission, vision, values, and culture. You’re more likely to get informational interviews when you share similar interests and values with the person you’re meeting with.
Start Networking On LinkedIn
I always recommend using LinkedIn for researching companies because that Company Page on LinkedIn provides a free directory of employees that you can reach out to for informational interviews. You can view the list of employees, narrow down the search results by location or function, and start a conversation with them easily. No, this isn’t considered stalking or creeping.
LinkedIn does, however, want you to “know each other” to be able to communicate. You’ll need to have mutual connections or other links, like being members of the same Groups on LinkedIn, to connect with and message someone. You can also purchase InMail credits to send messages to people you don’t know.
Give Context When You Ask
When sending a connection request on LinkedIn, it’s critically important to give context to your request if you haven’t met in-person. It’s also important to give context to any messages requesting to schedule an informational interview if you want a response. But what does context look or sound like?
Briefly tell the person what you do, what your career goals are, that you’re researching companies like the one he or she works for and roles like the one he or she holds, and that you’d love to learn more if he or she would be willing to schedule a 15-20 minute call or short coffee meeting to share his or her experiences with you.
I challenge you to reach out to the people you know and ask for introductions that could lead to informational interviews.
What are some questions that you’ve asked in informational interviews that had the most insightful and helpful answers?