Dealing with cancer usually causes you to think long and hard about how gratified you are in your job or career. Whether you are wondering if it’s time to look for a job similar to the one you have now or had before your diagnosis, or if you should be starting a business or changing careers completely, it’s important to gather as much information as possible.
If used well, an informational interview is one of the most valuable sources of information. Why? Because it enables you to get an intimate perspective of the experiences and impressions someone has in a much less stressful situation then an actual job interview.
Here are some guidelines for getting informational interviews, conducting them and what to expect from them.
Do your homework about the kind of information you are looking for before you start asking people to meet with you.
What exactly do you want to know? Is it understanding more about a job or career? Do you want to learn how to write a blog, a book or start a business? Create a list of questions that you will ask the person you are meeting with so that you don’t forget anything. This will also help him/her understand what information is most useful for you so that the conversation doesn’t wander during your meeting. Prepare and write down your questions ahead of time but don’t bombard him/her with too many. It’s okay to take notes during the meeting.
There are so many resources for finding people to ask for informational interviews…use them all.
• Ask your friends and colleagues to make introductions
• Go to a social networking site such as LinkedIn to find people to meet
• Ask contingency or executive recruiters for referrals
• Cold call a celebrity, author or business executive you admire
• Go onto specific company websites and identify people you’d like to meet
An informational interview is an important business appointment
The person you are meeting with is taking his/her time to meet with you and share his/her expertise, so be sensitive to his/her needs and what’s convenient for him/her as far as location and time. Be sure you know the person’s name, how to pronounce it and what his/her title is. Don’t waste his time by being unprepared during the meeting.
Follow the same etiquette you would in any meeting – show up on time and properly dressed. You don’t need to wear a suit, but you also don’t want to look as if you’ve just come from a barbecue on the beach. Finally, don’t overstay your welcome during the meeting.
Have realistic expectations
It isn’t often that an informational interview turns into an actual interview or even a direct contact who knows about a real job. It’s great if this happens however it’s important to keep your expectations very real. You may simply learn a few pieces of helpful information or be referred to another person and this is okay.
Offer to help
Just as in any networking meeting, try to learn more about the person and his/her issues and challenges so that you can offer to make an introduction to him/her or identify a useful resource for him/her.
Remember that the person you are meeting with can become a meaningful relationship over time
Be wary of viewing this informational interview as a one time event. If you make the right impression and follow-up, you can nurture the relationship over a very long period of time…the essence of networking.
This bears repeating…follow-up and do not disappear over time. Send a succinct thank you note or e-mail and if you promised to send them something, do it! If they did refer you to someone, follow-up with them to let them know what your progress was (or wasn’t) in connecting with the person.
Don’t worry if there wasn’t any chemistry
Just as with networking, it’s impossible to have chemistry with everyone. If you don’t click in any way, move on. (Do still follow-up however!)