Ease Into Networking Through Informational Interviews

We hear and read about it all the time…you must network for career success! But, many people are overwhelmed with the idea of networking and are not sure where to start. Informational interviewing allows a conversation to happen, usually 1-on-1, for the purpose of learning more about a career path, an employer and/or to gain advice from someone working in a field, position or industry that interests you. You may also gain knowledge about:

  • skills, training, education, and experience necessary to work in the field
  • whether or not you would enjoy the day-to-day responsibilities and challenges of a chosen career
  • the compatibility of your Values, Interests, Personality, and Skills (VIPS)
  • others in the field with whom you can connect with for additional informational interviews
  • opportunities that are currently available or will be opening up in the future*

*About this last point. Informational interviews are NOT designed to ask your contact for an internship or a job. Doing so may risk burning a bridge or end a developing relationship with a new connection in your network. However, the contact may bring up potential opportunities on their own or keep you in mind for future opportunities. If you avoid asking about open jobs or internships, you will find that most people are open to informational interviews because you are asking them to talk about themselves, their career path and their employer, something most anyone can do. But, once you ask for help with finding an internship or a job, many people do not think they can help in this way and will decline or ignore your request for an informational interview.

One of the easiest places to begin this process is Pioneer Connect. It is a database of over 4,410 alumni and students connecting with each other to build up a valuable career network, and gain exposure in a competitive business world. It’s a tool similar to LinkedIn, but exclusive to the DU community. Read more.

Once you have identified potential contacts, be sure that you are clear about your intentions in your email or phone call. Offer to meet with them in person, if possible, at a place and time that is convenient for them. Even though this is not a job interview, you still need to prepare. Research the field that interests you and research your contact’s employer and background, if possible. Be prepared to lead the meeting and start with a brief introduction about yourself, which may include articulating your own VIP’s. Arrive with a series of questions that you would like. Some typical themes for questions include:

  • education/experience/training/career path
  • challenges and rewards
  • employer culture and environment
  • the salary range for the type of position that interests you (not your interviewee’s salary!)
  • request for additional contacts in the field

Remain cognizant of the time and try to stay within the parameters you set ahead of time to be considerate of their busy schedules.

After the meeting, follow up with a thank you note. Stay in contact with them by updating them on your status and let them know when you have secured an internship or job. If the interviewee was willing to give you additional contacts, be sure to take advantage of that open door and follow up with the contact.

By continuing to request informational interviews, you are expanding your own network and knowledge and increase your chances of landing in a position that is rewarding and satisfying. When that happens, won’t you be willing to talk to others who reach out to you in a similar manner?

For more information, review the Informational Interview Guidelines at: http://www.du.edu/career/careerplanning/informationalinterviews.html


Cover Photo Credit: studymagazine.com
By Mary Michael Hawkins
Mary Michael Hawkins Senior Director, Undergraduate Career & Professional Development