Tag Archives: informational interviews

Asking for Advice, Not a Job: How to Conduct Informational Interviews

Megan Yasenchak is a current graduate student at NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies, pursuing a Masters in Global Affairs.  She attended the NYU Wasserman Center@SCPS career event, entitled, “Asking for Advice, Not a Job: How to Conduct Informational Interviews” which was presented by Rachel Frint, Associate Director, NYU Wasserman Center at SCPS.  In competitive job markets, informational interviews are a key resource to assist job seekers by expanding and cultivating their career networks.

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What is Informational Interviewing?

Informational interviewing is a form of networking with experts from your field or a related industry. It is a personal meeting, one-on-one, where you are leading the conversation with that person by asking them for advice, insight and guidance in developing your career path. In these meetings, you ask questions about their own career experiences and their organizations as well. This process allows you to make a positive impression on an expert outside of the confines of a traditional job interview.

Why is Informational Interviewing important?

Informational interviewing is asking for resources, not asking for a job. However, informational interviewing may connect you to job opportunities. Frequently, employers do not post all of their vacancies through public announcements. These un-posted vacancies are referred to as the “hidden job market,” which accounts for nearly 70% of job opportunities.

Through informational interviewing, a job seeker leaves an impression with that industry expert. You are investing your time in building a relationship with the expert that can lead to, potentially, other future industry contacts. This networking could result in job opportunities.

How To Identify Potential Contacts

Everyone is a potential contact. There are “strong” connections, such as family and friends and “weak” connections, like classmates, former co-workers or new acquaintances at events. Use your personal network, professional associations, social media and the Wasserman Center to expand your connections!

How To Initiate an Informational Interview

First, identify who you are (i.e. your brand), what do you want to communicate, what are your goals and how you can maintain this relationship.

When requesting an informational interview, be clear and direct in your request. Introduce yourself and explain any connection, why you would like to meet and how you would like to connect (e.g. telephone, in person, video chat).

How to Conduct the Informational Interview

Your informational interview is to gain insight from an industry expert. Be prepared for the meeting by thinking of topics of conversation, conducting research on that person and/or organization and think of questions. Informational interviewing is your chance to gain critical insight into your career field from experts!

After the Informational Interview

Your goal is to maintain this relationship and build connections, especially after the meeting. Remember to send a quick thank you note (within 24 hours). Maintain the relationship by sending your contact an update on your professional life (every 1-3 months).

 Maintaining so many current and future contacts may seem daunting; so divide your connections into a manageable list. Meet with new one person every week. Try to schedule one informational interview every month. Reconnect with one former contact every week.

To develop your own career strategies for building a network, schedule an appointment with a NYU Wasserman Center Career Coach through NYU CareerNet

Professional Networking Tips from Treatings

Hayden Williams is Co-Founder and CEO of Treatings. Treatings is a professional networking platform that facilitates one-on-one meetups over coffee. Prior to Treatings, Hayden spent four years as an investment banker at BofA Merrill Lynch. He graduated from Vanderbilt in 2008 with a degree in Economics and Corporate Strategy.

My first job out of college was in investment banking. While Vanderbilt’s Career Center was a great resource in securing the job, it was the individual relationships I’d built the summer after my junior year that were most helpful in deciding what I wanted to do.

I was living in New York doing an internship in Consulting. I realized that I didn’t want to work in Consulting after graduating, so I had to figure out an alternative career path. I started reaching out to all of the Vanderbilt alumni I could find who were working in roles I was interested in, asking people out for coffee so I could learn about their job.

The most helpful conversations I had were with junior people working at the level I would be starting in. I wasn’t looking for a job offer, just access to information about what certain roles were like and what types of people succeeded in them. I found it more difficult to find junior people than senior people. Young professionals aren’t prominently displayed on company websites and often don’t think to open themselves up on alumni networks. But, by the end of the summer I’d met enough people in investment banking that I decided the transferable financial skills I’d pick up as an Analyst would make for a good place to start my career.

Fast forward three years later and I was promoted to Associate. I had learned a lot and worked with great people, but realized that I didn’t want to remain in investment banking forever. I wasn’t passionate about the work and my skill set was getting narrower. I wanted to leave the finance industry and potentially work at a start-up, but I didn’t know how viable that would be given my lack of technical expertise.

My best friend (and now co-founder), Paul, was in a similar situation. We both wanted to leave our finance jobs, but didn’t want to blindly transition to a job that wouldn’t be a great fit. We wanted to talk to peers who had made career transitions we were interested in. I found that existing professional networking tools were helpful in documenting and leveraging my professional network, but not reaching outside of it. This was a problem because no one in my network worked at a start-up.

Paul and I decided there should be a professional networking equivalent to online dating sites, where people could go when they wanted to meet people outside their network. So, we quit our jobs to build Treatings, a local professional network where everyone is open to meeting over coffee to share ideas and opportunities.

The core value that Treatings offers is access to knowledge. We believe that people’s insights and career experiences have as much latent value as any physical good they own, so we’re always looking to reduce the friction of knowledge transfer.

We’re a peer-to-peer networking site. We don’t differentiate between “consumers” of knowledge and “producers” of it. Most people sign up for Treatings as a consumer, not imagining that people would be interested in their insights. People are often surprised and flattered to hear they can be a producer of knowledge when they are asked by fellow members to talk about their work. People have been using Treatings to find collaborators, meet people with shared interests and learn about new skills.

We have incorporated a filter into Treatings that makes it easy for NYU alumni and students to connect with each other. You can sign up for the platform and follow companies and skills you’re interested in. You’re then matched with other members based on shared interests and can propose coffee meetings with whomever you’d like.

We think networking should be a routine part of people’s lives, but it doesn’t have to be boring or formal. Treatings is all about taking conversations about your work out of the office. We hope you get the opportunity to meet fellow members of the NYU community over coffee (or the beverage of your choice!).

Sign up today! treatings.co