Today I’d like to address a topic that everyone seeking a professional position knows they should be doing, but so few do it effectively: NETWORKING. Specifically, how to conduct an effective informational interview.
IT'S ACTUALLY PRETTY EASY
Informational interviews can be a scary topic, but are not arduous once you know how to do them right, and they don’t take a lot of time. I recommend my clients spend 10 or 15 minutes, usually on the phone, with the subject of an informational interview, instead of carving out nearly half a day for coffee or lunch.
You have to realize the main objective of an informational interview is to get that person to refer you to another center of influence, or a decision maker they know that may be able to affect your career. This comes down to asking the magical question, “Who do you know that I should be talking with?”
FIRST: BUILDING RAPPORT IS KEY
But in order for you to be effective to that end, you need to build enough rapport with the person on the phone that they feel comfortable referring you to someone they know. Remember, their reputation is on the line if you end up being a dud and they have referred you to someone they have a good relationship with.
THE FORMULA FOR SUCCESS
So here’s the formula for a great informational interview:
- Find someone that works in a company or industry that you would like to get into. The best place to find them is through an advanced people search on LinkedIn. If you don’t know how to do this, here is a great article on LinkedIn with a tutorial to walk you through it.
- Call them up by dialing their main office number and asking for them by name. You’ll probably get their voicemail. But your message, whether it be voicemail or live, should be the same: “Hi Firstname, this is (your name) and I would love to spend about 10 minutes picking your brain about your industry, because in doing my research, I realized that YOU are the one I should be talking to. Do you have about 10 minutes to answer a few questions? (Then leave your number if it’s a voicemail).” If they don’t have time then, simply ask them their next available time, and be sure to take no more than 10 minutes of their time.
Some questions you can then ask them (choose only 2 or 3), are…
- What are some of the areas in your company or industry that are growing and doing well?
- How did you break into this industry?
- What are the best publications to read, like blogs or industry magazines? Who should I be following as a blogger or on LinkedIn?
- Are there specific companies, maybe competitors of yours, that are doing really well?
- Where should I be networking, either in person or online?
Then thank them for their time, and finish with the magical question, “Who else should I be talking with?”
Sometimes they will give you several names. Ask what companies they work for, do the research to find their number, give them a call, and have the same conversation, but this time, use the person's name you just talked with as a reference to make it a warmer lead call.
You can easily conduct 3 of these during one lunch hour, making a work week equivalent to gaining 15 new contacts per week. PRO TIP: Don’t forget to connect with them on LinkedIn after the call!
The first one is always the hardest, but you’ll find that most people are much friendlier than you might think - especially if you have a warm lead that you’re following up on from a previous informational interview. Try it out, and you may find you like this kind of networking!
Remember, Luck = Preparation + Opportunity