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Networking | Informational Interviewing

What is Networking?

Establishing personal contacts and developing relationships that can enhance your chances of successfully obtaining a job and/or to obtain career advice -- networking is also used for other purposes once you start your career such as using your networks to influence others and accomplish tasks. It is based on the notion that you know someone who knows someone who knows someone, etc. who can help you get your foot in the door at an organization or in a particular field. Networking is about building relationships – it is not about using people and it does not end when you find a job.

 It is an on-going process.

 Why should I network?

Fewer than 15% of jobs are found in newspapers/internet….many studies indicate that almost 70% of jobs are found through contacts and networking.

 Benefits of networking:

  1. Helpful in securing a job; advancing one’s career
  2. Helpful in making careful and meaningful career and job decisions – find out how others have approached decisions
  3. Can provide access to a company
  4. Provides information about what it is really like to work in particular industries from people who work in the field
  5. Useful in obtaining tips to tailor cover letters, resumes, interviews, etc.
  6. Free advice and encouragement during career search
  7. References in the future

What is Informational Interviewing?

A form of networking that allows you to talk to people who have jobs that interest you to gather information to get a clearer idea of the kind of job/career you want and the type of organization where you want to work. This process helps you to make well informed job and career decisions.

Where do I begin?

Start by making a list of potential contacts, including:

  • Immediate, extended family members and family friends
  • Professors, advisors, coaches
  • Former supervisors, coworkers
  • Members of clubs, religious groups, and other organizations you belong to
  • SPEA Online Alumni Directory
  • Other SPEA students
  • IU Alumni Clubs, 80 clubs worldwide
  • Professional associations
  • Volunteer groups
  • Websites
  • Make a targeted list of companies/organizations

Cross-compare your list of contacts with organizations you are interested in working for to see if you have any matches. If no matches appear do not despair, look at your contacts to determine who may have relationships with those organizations or are most likely to have such relationships.

How do I contact people to conduct an informational interview?

If you’re nervous, first remember… 

  • The results are worth the risk
  • Don’t let one “no” stop you
  • This is your opportunity!

 In general, people…

  • Like to talk about themselves and their work
  • Are usually flattered that you are seeking their advice
  • Are empathetic to others making career decisions
  • Like to help others because it makes them feel good about themselves

How do I schedule an informational interview?

Making the phone call…

Prepare a brief sound bite and/or commercial with the following points:

  • Introduce yourself and explain your SPEA affiliation
  • Ask if the individual has time to speak with you
  • Emphasize that you are not looking for a job
  • Briefly summarize your education, experience, strengths, etc.
  • Explain your purpose - why are you contacting this particular person? What type of information are you seeking?
  • How much time do you want to schedule (recommend 30-45 minutes)?
  • Compliment the person if you can, based on skills/experience. If you can, include who you know that he/she knows to make the networking link
  • Try calling early or late in the day, when you may be able to talk directly with the person.
  • Maintain initiative, if you don’t hear from the person, call to follow-up after making an initial inquiry.

Examples:

Sound Bite

“Hi, Mr. Jones. My name is Jane Student. I am currently a senior at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, majoring in Public Policy. I am interested in policy in local governments and I see that you serve on the Bloomington city council. I am very interested in what you do and would like to talk with you about how you got there.”

Commercial

“Hi, Mr. Jones. My name is John Student. I am currently a senior at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, majoring in Management. I am interested in one day managing my own restaurant and see that you own and manage the Colorado Steak House and I would like to learn more about your career and how you got into the restaurant business. I believe I have developed my management skills through my studies at Indiana University and have realized from previous experiences how my management degree would be useful in the restaurant industry. I have research several different types of restaurant and hospitality management styles and different forms of ownership from franchise to creating my own restaurant. Based on my strong interest and knowledge that I have gained, I believe I would make a great restaurant manager. As a professional in the field,  would you be able to talk to me more about your career path and your perspective on the restaurant industry?”

How do I prepare for the interview?

  • You are responsible for conducting the interview
  • Learn as much as you can about the organization and the person you will be interviewing before going to the interview. If you research, you have a better chance of conducting a successful interview and making a better impression on the interviewer
  • What are your goals? Do you want to learn about…
    •  The organization
    •  The person you will be interviewing
    •  The career in general
  • Prepare questions to address your goals
  • Don’t waste their time by being unprepared!
  • Ask questions based on your research
  • Determine priorities for the interview – what are the most important questions that you want answered?
  • Prepare your resume on high quality bond paper and bring extra copies
  • Make sure you know where you are going and leave plenty of time to get there

What do I ask?

Here are some sample questions, but feel free to draft more specific questions related to the organization and career field. 

  • In general, what credentials (degrees, licenses, majors, etc.) are required in your line of work?
  • How did you get into this field?
  • Why did you choose it?
  • What is a typical career path?
  • What is the future outlook in this field?
  • What is a typical day/week like?
  • How much variety is involved in the job?
  • What to you find most/least rewarding about your work? Challenging?
  • What skills and abilities are necessary to be successful in this field?
  • What other career areas are related to this job?
  • What are entry-level salaries?
  • Where does the organization’s funding come from?
  • What are the opportunities for growth? Is there a professional development program?
  • How do you keep on top of the trends and changes in your field?
  • What is the best way to conduct a job search in this field?
  • What advice do you have for a person entering this organization or career field?
  • What would you do differently if you could begin your career search again?
  • May I keep in touch with you to let you know how my job search is going?
  • Do you know anyone else who would be willing to speak with me?
  • Would you be willing to give me feedback on my resume?
  • What skills and abilities are necessary to be successful in this field?
  • What other career areas are related to this job?
  • What are entry-level salaries?

What do I do after the interview? 

  • Send a thank-you note to the contact within 48 hours
    • Thank the contact again for his/her time
    • Mention aspects of the interview that were particularly helpful and what you plan to do to follow up
  • Critically evaluate what you have been told. Are there trends developing from one person to another?
  • Evaluate how you conducted the interview. Did you get all of the information that you wanted?
  • What can you do better next time?
  • Do what you said you would do in the interview –make more contacts based on referrals, follow-up on items that the contact suggested, etc.
  • Update all contacts who produce a significant amount of information or advice deserve to receive updates about your career search, especially if the information leads to employment/internship opportunities.

LinkedIn Resources for University Students : Profiles, Branding, and Networking