As recent graduates, times in the job hunt can seem unbearable. You compete not only with other college and high school graduates to land a part-time summer job, but you are also competing with talented, unemployed professionals that seek to rebound from company layoffs, terminations, or mergers/acquisitions. With your newly awarded degree or diploma in hand, take some time to review key points to using the informational interview to uncover job opportunities.
An informational interview takes on two primary goals. (1) To learn more about a profession or industry and (2) Build a relationship with a career professional that may be in a position to act as a future recommendation, mentor or hopefully, a supervisor. There are several benefits for a recent grad in seeking out informational interview opportunities. Some of them include:
• Learn about the realities of work and the expectations firsthand.
• Discover new opportunities that weren’t initially realized in a profession.
• Gain access to people and information that no other job applicant will have.
And the list can go on and on. Ironically, given all of the benefits, most recent graduates don’t take the time to seek out and explore informational interview opportunities and that’s a shame. Those that do gain a competitive edge in finding a career path that is most aligned with their talents and skills and which ultimately lead to more professionally rewarding work and jobs in the future.
So, let’s say, “You get it.” You’re sold on the benefits and you are ready to tap into this “hidden gem” of the career planning process. Your next questions might be “Whom do I interview? What do I ask during the interview? What happens after the interview?”
Four “jumpstart” tips to help you get moving are as follows:
Start with who you know. Or with whom your parents, teachers, and family know. Talk with your high school guidance counselor to see if there is anyone who went to your school that now works in a certain career field. Review the college’s alumni network to find a graduate that is currently employed and doing the work you aspire to do.
Make contact. Today there are social networking sites like Linkedin.com, Twitter and Facebook that make contacting people quick and easy. Certainly, you can always go traditional and send a letter. This might even add a special touch to your request to meet with someone that will go a long way to set a positive foundation for your meeting.
Research, Research, Research. This one should be a “no-brainer” but, you’d be surprised at how many times I had recent graduates contact me during my 10 years in Human Resources and ask me “What type of jobs does your company hire for?” This is completely unacceptable. Your questions for your interview need to go well beyond surface-level requests. Questions like “What is the biggest challenge you face in your job? or “What do you enjoy best about this company?” show that you are interested in learning more about this person’s career. With proper research, information about the type of jobs a company hires for will be readily accessible through perusing the company’s website. This professional has taken time out of his/her busy schedule to meet with you. If you come to an informational interview unprepared, it will give the impression that you are not serious but maybe even more importantly, that you don’t respect the interviewee’s time. Not the best first impression, you think?
Show Gratitude & Appreciation. Follow up with the person you meet with within 24-hours of your informational interview and thank him/her for their time. If there were questions you didn’t get to ask, you can continue the conversation online with the professional’s permission. Keep in contact by connecting with them on social media sites and via email if you have determined that this is a career field that you want to continue to pursue.
You’ll leave the informational interview with new insights into the career field, a potential mentor and/or resource to connect with again in the future, and a strategic course of action to achieve your career goals for breaking into that field. Looking forward, an informational interview can also open doors for a potential internship, shadowing, and job opportunities in the future. Best of all, you may never even have to fill out an application and you could land the job of your dreams!
Claiming nothing but success in all of your career endeavors,
~The Career Confidence Coach