Initiating a conversation for professional networking is often referred to as an informational interview. These are brief meetings in which you gather information about a particular field or occupation. These conversations can take place via email or webcam, on the phone, or in person, but should always be handled professionally.
Make a Connection
Resist the temptation to ask all of your questions right away and keep the message brief (no more than a few sentences).
- Describe what caught your interest about this person.
- Be clear, but concise about what you hope to learn. Is it something about the industry or specific job? The job search or application process? Never ask for a job or internship directly.
- Suggest a few dates for connecting, but remain flexible. Remember that professionals often have competing priorities such as deadlines or business travel and may require planning further out or rescheduling.
- Be patient and allow several days for a reply.
After you receive a response:
- Reply promptly and be sure to thank them. If they suggest calling to set something up, do that.
- Prepare by learning what they do professionally; Google them and the company.
- Reflect on what you want to learn from the conversation.
- Arrive on time and dress professionally.
- Prepare good open-ended questions that can inform you about the work they do as well as concrete questions that lead you to further action.
- Be open to feedback and suggestions, even if they’re tough to hear.
- Learn something about them. (Perhaps there’s a way you might return the favor later.)
- Follow up promptly. Send a personal note thanking them for their time.
- Consider writing again a few weeks later to share your progress.
Questions to Ask
Target your questions for the person with whom you’re meeting. Here are a few
examples to get you started:
- How did you get into this line of work?
- What is a typical week like?
- What has surprised you about your job and about your industry?
- What skills and personality traits do you find are most important to succeed in your job?
- What major changes do you see coming in your industry in the years ahead?
- I’m looking for an internship/job in this field; what resources do you think would be especially helpful for me in my search?
Contact CP&R if you want some additional support getting started.