What now? How do you make the most of this conversation—while still keeping things casual and comfortable?
As always, it’s just a matter of being prepared. Here’s a three-part process for your next meeting that’ll make sure you get the advice you need and make a great impression.
People love to talk about themselves, so when you first sit down, let them! Get the conversation going by asking your contact something about his or her experiences thus far—something he or she knows all about. Some good places to begin:
You should also be prepared to chat about yourself, your past experiences, and your career goals. Remember, this meeting isn’t just a time to ask for advice and learn from your contact’s experiences—it’s also a chance to make an impression. For example, don’t be afraid to preface your questions with what you already know. Something like, “It looks like recent developments in the field of nuclear fission are going to be pretty disruptive to the energy industry. How do you think this will affect your company?”
After you’ve made some general conversation, it’s time to move on to what you came for: the advice you can’t get anywhere else.
Before the meeting, think through the insider information you want to learn from this person. What information are you seeking? Is there something you can learn from this person that would be difficult for you to learn on your own? Depending on where you are in the job search process, adjust your questions accordingly.
For example, if you’re still in exploration mode, trying to find out if, say, working for an educational technology startup is for you, then ask questions like:
If you’re further along in your job search and could use some job hunting and interviewing tips for specific companies, don’t be afraid to ask questions like:
Of course, you’ll want go with the flow of the conversation—you’re trying to build a relationship, not fire off as many questions as you can. Also remember that what these questions have in common is that they are all seeking advice. Keep it that way. It’s no mystery that you are clearly looking for a new position or career change, and the fastest way to alienate your contact is to ask for a job (or anything along those lines). If your contact offers to forward your resume based on your conversation, then by all means, take advantage of it. But that process is for him or her to initiate, not you.
That said, as you’re wrapping up the meeting, you should ask for recommendations for two or three more people who would be good to talk to as you continue networking. The likelihood someone will take time to chat with you goes up significantly if your initial request comes through a mutual contact, so it’s a fast, easy way to talk to even more people.
The key here is to make your request as specific as possible. This might be counterintuitive, but it actually makes it easier for your contact to think of someone when you say, “Could you recommend a couple more people for me to speak with to learn more about exit opportunities after a career in consulting?” than to come up with an answer to, “Is there anyone else you would recommend that I speak with?”
To recap: Get the conversation going, know what you want to get out of the meeting, and don’t leave without knowing who you’re contacting next. And don’t forget to follow up with a thank-you note! Better yet, follow up again with an updateon your meetings with the people he or she recommended and the results of your job search. After all, your informational interviewees aren’t just useful for their one-time advice—they can become a long-term part of your network.
Job interviews are arguably some of the most important meetings you will ever have in your life. The outcome of an interview can greatly affect your career trajectory, whether it means you continue along your planned path or start a new one to find a more fulfilling occupation.
7 years, 11 months ago
Long before humans developed language skills, we found ways to communicate with one another. Even in the absence of recognizable words, we were highly attuned to nonverbal clues (think: lots of grunts and hand gestures). We had to be if we wanted to survive.
8 years, 1 month ago
You probably get a little nervous before you go into a job interview. Even if you’ve copiously prepped, you figure the interviewer will hold all the cards. She knows everything about her company and the job you want, and she’s got a vision of the perfect employee that doesn’t exactly describe you.
8 years, 2 months ago