A challenge that people have when they decide to start networking is deciding what to do first. How do you start? Scheduling Informational Interviews with people is a great way to start networking because there’s no ambiguity. It’s an opportunity for you to meet someone in a position that you admire, or who works at an organization that interests you. Either way, you know that you`ve come with the intention of learning about your new contact, and the person sitting across from you understands that intention.
An Informational Interview is really just a conversation. It’s your opportunity to speak with someone about their career, and their place of work. Having said that, an Informational Interview is an amazing opportunity to learn about a company you idealize, and get an idea of whether your values coincide with the corporate culture just by speaking with someone who actually works in your area of interest.
Important things to remember for an Informational Interview:
- Arrive on time, and be prepared for a conversation. Learn what you can about the person you’re coming to meet, the industry they’re in, and prepare three questions so that you can direct the conversation.
- Be respectful of the other person’s time. Remember that this person is doing you a favour, so be conscious of time, and focus on what he/she has to say.
- Realize that you’re not there to ask for a job; you’re there to learn about the other person. You wouldn’t propose marriage to someone on a first date, so why would you beg to work at a contact’s firm just after you’ve met?
The concept of networking can be intimidating because you’re putting yourself out there, and saying ‘I don’t know many people, who wants to get to know me?’ The best advice I’ve ever heard regarding networking is to realize that every person who says yes to meeting you, responds to your ‘hello’ at a networking event, or sends you a follow-up email is also looking to network. So realize that your efforts are not strange at all! Networking is simply a learned skill.
So start with an Informational Interview, especially if you feel more comfortable planning to meet someone rather than meeting a random person at a networking event. Look through your groups on LinkedIn, and see who’s local. Take a peek at the names of people who went to your university who you never met. You never know where a connection will lead you in the future, and how you can impact that individual’s career path. Good luck!