Begin Networking and Informational Interviewing
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Senior Vice President of Human Performance, Comcast
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:
- 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.
Step 3 : Do preliminary research
Once you’ve identified your contacts, make sure you’ve researched their company and field.
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.
Step 4 : Develop list(s) of questions
Identify 5-10 questions that will solicit information useful to you.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:
- 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 research career paths, organizations, and reach out to individuals you would like to network with. Here are ways to maximize LinkedIn to identify potential connections and reach out.
- Join Groups LinkedIn groups are a great way to identify individuals that you have a shared professional interest with or who are alumni from your institution. Be sure to join the UVM groups University of Vermont Career Connection and the UVM Alumni Association.
- • Send a Message to a Group Member:Group members have ability to message one another without having to be connected on LinkedIn. From the Members tab of a group page, highlight an individual’s name and an option to send that person a message will appear. Be brief with your message as LinkedIn limits the character length. Be sure to indicate your reasons for connecting.
- Search Tools:
- Find Alumni Tool: You can find the tool under the “Connections” tab located in the top navigation. This tool allows you to search UVM’ers in a variety of ways such as location, company or organization, industry, course of study, and degrees of connection. Click on any bar in the Alumni Tool to drill down into the various options. Alumni profiles that fit your search criteria will appear below the selection bars. The tool is also searchable by keyword. So if you want to know about a specific company, you can quickly find current and past alumni employees.
- Advanced Search: The Advanced Search allows you to modify your searches by group, location, industry, and other options. ( Review a complete list of LinkedIn industries here.) Your search results will not offer you the option to send a message – only the option to connect. If you want to send a message to a fellow group member, go to the group page you share in common with that individual and search the member’s name. You will be offered the opportunity to send a message to that individual.
Request a Connection: Request a connection with a fellow group member. LinkedIn will ask you how you know that person. When operating from the Find Alumni tool, how you know an individual is not included. Always remove the default invite text. 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.
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.
- 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 following up with your contacts is essential to maintaining a meaningful relationship.
- 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.
- Elevator Speech
- LinkedIn Learning Webinars
- Jake on Jobs
- WSJ's Career Journal networking articles (search "networking")
Last modified February 16 2018 01:01 PM