Written by Christina Beningfield, English, Class of 2018
With the holiday season fast approaching, we begin to prep for the inevitable family interrogations. What are you doing when you graduate? How’s school, what are you thinking about doing after? We’ve read of the various ways we can flip these questions to our advantage; asking our nosy relatives how they can actually help us by simply introducing us to the professionals they know in their own lives. Then it’s up to us to nail the informational interview. Here’s what I’ve found works best:
Keep it low-key
People love to give advice. All you have to do is ask. Invite the project manager your aunt does yoga with to coffee. Suggest meeting at a nice cafe with the business savvy son of your grandpa’s golfing buddy. When you reach out, introduce yourself and explain how you got their name. Politely ask if you can meet to discuss their career and any advice they would be willing to impart on a college student hoping to work in their field. Offer to buy them a beverage and thank them for taking the time to sit down with you.
Have questions ready
The worst thing you can do is show up unprepared. Despite their willingness to share some golden nuggets of knowledge, they shouldn’t be expected to lead the conversation. Why did you want to meet with them specifically? Is their job title something you’re interested in or is it their field? Identify what it is you want to know first and then tailor your questions to fit. Are you wondering how you can break into the field of your interest? Are you unsure of what that field even entails? Start by asking your guest about their career path and go from there. Make sure to ask them if they can give you additional names of people you can meet with. This is your network expanding!
Bring a notepad. You won’t remember everything and that’s ok. But you’re going to want all the information you can get, so take notes.
Remember to thank them for their time and advice with a note or even an email. It shows that you’ve taken the time to reach out after you’ve already met. Manners go a long a way when it comes to maintaining professional relationships.
Here’s a worksheet to help you conduct a successful informational interview. So next week when your uncle is asking why you don’t have a job yet, turn that nightmare to your advantage. Go get ‘em Pilots. Have a wonderful break!