University of Vermont

Begin Networking and Informational Interviewing

What is networking?

Networking is the process by which you gather and exchange information with contacts who can help you focus your career planning and develop a network to uncover the hidden job market. While it is not a readily available source of jobs, the relationships you develop may lead you to a connection that becomes a job. Here are some examples of networking.

Guidelines for networking through informational interviews

Informational interviews are a more formal process of networking by which you identify people in fields of interest, ask if they’d be willing to talk with you, and arrange a time in which you interview them about their career and job. You ask most of the questions and gain insights into their career field and your own job search.

Step 1 : Define your purpose

What information are you looking for? Determine for yourself whether you are interested in obtaining information and advice on career fields or if you are looking to develop a career network to assist in your job searching.

Step 2 : Identify your contacts

Identify people in your life that might be able to assist you:

Read more
  • Relatives, friends, parents of friends, neighbors, members of civic or social organizations in which you participate, current supervisors, professors, co-workers, guest lecturers, etc.
  • UVM Career Connection on LinkedIn, a group that gathers members of the UVM community and its friends around issues of career development. Alumni, students and friends of UVM interested in professional networking, offering career advice or sharing employment opportunities are invited to join. Go to the Members tab in LinkedIn to perform a basic or advanced search.
Step 3 : Do preliminary research

Once you’ve identified your contacts, make sure you’ve researched their company and field.

Read more
  • Most of your networking contacts will be more friendly and helpful if they recognize that you have made some effort to understand their organization/position prior to contacting them.
  • Try not to waste their time by asking questions that you could have easily researched before your meeting.
  • When researching the web can be your best friend.
Step 4 : Develop list(s) of questions

Identify 5-10 questions that will solicit information useful to you.

Read more
  • Check out the following link for a list of sample questions – edit these to meet your needs. Sample networking and informational interviewing questions.
  • You will only have a limited amount of time, so prioritize which questions to ask.
  • The questions you ask may change depending upon who you are interviewing.
Step 5 : Make first contact and schedule the interview

Your first interaction with potential contacts should always be to introduce yourself and ask if they have time to speak with you. From that point, your goal is to establish a relationship and ask for information, not a job. You can reach out to your contacts in several ways. Review these sample emails, LinkedIn message, and phone conversations.

E-mail: E-mail is a great way to reach out to potential contacts; it is NOT a great way to conduct a networking and informational interview. You will get more information through an in-person or phone conversation. When using e-mail follow these simple guidelines:

Email Tips
  • Pay attention to proper etiquette, grammar, spelling, and punctuation in your e-mail — it is a formal business correspondence. Do not use informal language or slang.
  • Use a professional subject line such as, "UVM Career Connection Request"
  • Address your contacts by appropriate titles such as "Ms.", "Mr.", and "Dr."
  • Close your email with a professional closing such as "Sincerely," "Regards," or "Best," followed by your name.
  • Do not send mass emails. Send a unique and separate email to each of your contacts. You’ll be more likely to get responses.

LinkedIn: Use LinkedIn as a way to reach out to an individual you are already connected to or would like to be connected to. Join professional and alumni groups, such as the University of Vermont Career Connection and the UVM Alumni Association. Be sure to join relevant subgroups as well. Once you are a member of a LinkedIn group, subgroups can be found under the "More" menu. Reaching out to fellow group members who you are not already connected with, can be done in the following ways:

LinkedIn Tips
  • Connect: Request a connection with a fellow group member. When LinkedIn prompts you to indicate how you know the person, select “Groups.” Always include a personal note that indicates your reason for connecting and gratitude for any assistance that person can offer. If you are hoping for an informational interview, follow up with a longer message on that once you are connected. Be brief as LinkedIn limits the characters in the personal notes before connections are made.
  • Send a Message: From the Members tab of each group, members have the ability to send a message to a group member who is not a connection. When you highlight an individual’s name on that list, options to either "Invite to Connect" and "Send a Message" will appear on the right side of the screen. Again, be brief with your message as LinkedIn limits the character length. Be sure to indicate your reasons for connecting.
  • Search Tools: From the Members page, LinkedIn provides two ways to search on group members – the basic search bar and the Advanced Search tool.
    • The Advanced Search allows you to modify your searches by location, industry, and other options. (Review a complete list of LinkedIn industries here.) However, your search results will not offer the "Send a Message" option – only the option to connect.
    • If you would like to send a message to a group member without connecting, return to the basic search bar and insert the member’s name or other identifying information. The results yielded from that search will include the "Send a Message" option.

Telephone: Calling is also an appropriate way to schedule networking and informational interviews. Do not call expecting an alum or a contact to have time to speak to you right then (although be prepared just in case), but ask if they would be willing to set up a meeting to talk about their career.

Step 6 : Conduct interviews

If you’ve followed all the steps above, you should be prepared to set the tone of your interview and ask most of the questions.

Read more
  • Ask your questions and take notes.
  • Never ask for a job or a job interview. You can ask:
    • “If I were to apply for a job with this organization, how would I go about doing it?”
    • “What are good organizations in this field?”
    • “Is there someone else in this organization you might refer me to for an additional informational interview?”
  • If you are serious about the organization and the field of your contact person, you may want to bring a polished resume to the interview.
Step 7 : Follow-up

What you do after an informational interview can be as important as the meeting itself. Thanking and followung up with your contacts is essential to maintaining a meaningful relationship.

Read more
  • Thank your contacts: Send a thank-you note within a day or two of your networking session/informational interview. Making the extra effort to write or e-mail a note will help you stand out in the person’s memory.
  • Be organized: Keep an orderly list of your contacts and conversations. It may be helpful to set up a personal database or to use index cards and a box. Download our Networking Tracking Sheet (excel file) to help you keep track.
  • Evaluate: What information do you now have about this kind of work? What are your next steps? Who will you contact next? How will you adjust your career plans and/or job search strategies based upon the information you gained? (Beware of relying too much on the advice of only one or two people.)
  • Keep your contacts informed of your progress: If somebody referred you to another contact that was particularly helpful, write to the original person and let them know.
  • Remember that networking is a mutually beneficial process: If you come upon a resource that you think one of your contacts would appreciate, pass it along to him or her.

Additional resources

 

Last modified December 12 2013 03:06 PM