A great way to network is to ask someone for an informational interview. This person could be someone who you’ve never met or it could be a friend or family member. Most people are happy to give informational interviews because the expectations are different from a job interview. Making a connection with a person can open doors later in life for future job positions. Here is a guide to help you approach someone for an informational interview.
In order to make this kind of interview work for you, follow this guiding principle: Never ask for a job. Always ask for information, advice, and referrals.
Start with friends, parents, professors, alumni, etc. While these people may not have a current job opening in your area of interest, they do have important resources (information, advice, and networks) relevant to your job search. Make a positive and professional first impression (show up early, dressed professionally, notepad in hand). Keep the interview brief: 20-30 minutes at most. When you get a lead, show that you appreciate it by following up on it in a timely manner. Research the person, the company, and make a list of questions before the meeting. Always send a thank you letter after an interview. Keep in touch with your new contact via email or LinkedIn – that’s how you maintain the network you’re building.
You are the interviewer. Consider asking these questions to gather helpful info:
• Describe your career path. How did each job lead you to the next?
• How did you decide to pursue this path?
• How did you find this particular job?
• What is the employment outlook in your field?
• Could you describe a typical day?
• What parts of your job do you find challenging?
• What do you find most enjoyable?
• Is there a busy season for this career?
• What are your responsibilities?
• How would you describe your work environment?
• What are the job duties/titles of your coworkers?
• What future opportunities are there in this field?
• Why do people leave this field or company?
• Who are the current important people in this field?
Training and Preparation
• What educational preparation would you recommend for someone who wants to advance in this field?
• What type of skills and knowledge are needed to perform in this career?
• How do most people enter this profession?
• What types of positions would I qualify for based on my education and experience?
• What do you think of my resume?
• Do you have any suggestions regarding specific experiences I should seek for improvement?
• How can students find summer opportunities in this field?
• What advice do you have for those preparing to enter this field?
• How would I best acquire the skills necessary for this job?
• Do you know of other professionals with whom I might speak for more information about this field? When I call, can I use your name?
These questions will show that you are prepared for the informational interview and that you take it seriously. If you have a business card, you can give it to the person so they remember you if a job opens up in their company that might be a good fit for you.