Want to learn about higher level jobs and how to reach the next rung on the career ladder? How do you get information without the stress of actually pursuing an open job? It’s called an “informational interview”.
Informational interviews provide you with candid feedback to questions you have about your next higher job from those who would know: People already in the position or those who manage the position to which you aspire.
Your first question might be, “Why do I need an informational interview?” Two reasons:
- You’ll get useful material and answers to questions without applying for a job
- The more information you receive about needed skills and experience, the better prepared you will be and the more practiced your interviewing skills.
CONNECTING – You can learn a great deal from those already in the job to which you aspire. They are in the best position to be a potential source of information. You probably know a few sources or your contacts know them. Make a list and prioritize them by industry and company, as they should be the greatest interest to you. Reach out and connect with them by email.
THE APPROACH – Making contact with those you know is easy. For new contacts, start out by referencing your mutual contact (if you have permission to do so). If not, simply state, “Your name came to me as someone who is successful and understands what’s going on in your function. I’m interested in learning about the work you do and the skills I may need to achieve the next stage in my career. I am NOT looking for a job, just information. I promise not to take more than 30 minutes during a morning coffee, lunch, or a quick phone call.” Mention something about your background/experiences so they have a gauge as to where you are in your career. Suggest some alternative dates or times to meet, or connect by phone, then ask for their help.
QUESTIONS TO ASK – Be prepared with focused questions and not a random walk. Do some research about the industry, company and/or function so as not to sound like a neophyte. Questions like: What career path did you follow? Given where I am now, what skills or experience should I pursue in order to be ready for the next level? What are the satisfactions and frustrations of the job? Don’t ask for a job. If you do, then the reason for your meeting would be a dishonest one. However, if you’re asked about your time-line, say that you would entertain a move within the year for the right job.
STAY CONNECTED – If your meeting was successful, ask if you can stay in touch. If yes, a note once in a while to mention where you are in your career and time-line. It could lead to information about where the jobs are or an actual job opening. Those kinds of connects can work both ways over time.
A network of higher-level professionals in your industry or function is never a bad thing.
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