Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Not Working? Start Networking!

If you have been in job search mode for a while and you aren’t getting your desired results, perhaps it is time to up the ante and take your job search to the next level in an not so forward manner. Both career coaches and recruiters know that when it comes to your job search ROI [Return On Investment], networking via informational interviews are far more successful than any other combination of networking in the market.

Informational interviews give you, the candidate, the opportunity to become part of different networking circle. In this networking circle, you will be exposed to professionals who are already working in the industry and able to get you closer to your employment and career goals.

Informational interviews are a subtle and effective method for you to look for a job without actually coming out and saying so. As with any other interview, there are protocols involved. Unlike a regular job interview, where you are one being interviewed and answering questions, during an informational interview, you are the person conducting the interview and asking questions.

The first step on the road to successful job searching via the informational interview road is to identify the companies where you would like to work and making a request for an information interview. This step is not as frightening as it sounds. Most people genuinely want to help others, especially if your request comes across as professional, undemanding and polite. This type of initial contact can be made with a simple phone call to the company. If the receptionist can’t help you find someone to chat with, the human resources department should be able to help you find someone.

Once you have been given the name, job title and contact information of someone at the company who is willing to take some time to talk with you, do the following:

  • Prepare sample questions for the interviewee. Although this step seems counter-intuitive, it is best that you are prepared to ask questions should the interviewee tell you that they have time right now and may not be so available in the near future. Your questions could include the following:

  • a. What are the skills/qualifications required for your specific job?
    b. How long have you been with the company?
    c. What were the steps [career path] involved in getting to the position you hold today?
    d. How would you describe a typical day on the job?
    e. What do you like best about your job?
    f. What do you like least about your job?
    g. Is there growth in the career field?
    h. From your perspective, what are the problems you see working in this field?
    i. If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? Why?

  • Prepare and practice your telephone script.

  • a. Write out a "script" that you would be comfortable saying.

    b. Practice your "script" ahead of time. Think of it as a rehearsal and say the "script" until it feels natural. Try it out on a family member or friend.

    c. Make sure you identify yourself and why you're calling.

    d. Let the person know that you need only 10 or 15 minutes of his/her time.

    Sample Scripts:

    Approach A: "Hello, my name is____________, and I understand that you are a (or work as a) __________________. I'm currently exploring this (company) (career/occupation) as a possibility for the future. I wonder if I could take about 10 minutes of your time to find out more about what you do (your career field)."

    Approach B:
    "Hello, my name is____________. A mutual acquaintance, __________________, suggested I give you a call. He/she said you would be the right person to talk to about working in your (company/your career field /position). Would you be able to talk to me now? I only need about 15 minutes of your time."

    Approach C: "Hello, my name is____________ and I understand that you are a (or work as a) ______________. I'm looking for advice about (your company), (your career field/position) . Could I take a few minutes of your time to find out what you would say to someone who wanted to get into your line of work?"

    If you get a negative response:

    Chances are, not everyone will be willing to help you, but that doesn't mean it's time to quit. Try these responses:

    Potential interviewee: "I'm too busy right now to talk to you."
    You: "Thank you for your time. Could you recommend anyone else to speak to?"

    Potential interviewee:
    "I'd like to help you, but I have too much work to do right now."
    You: "I really appreciate your interest and I understand you're busy. Is there a more convenient time that we could talk?"

  • Call the interviewee and introduce yourself. During this ‘pre-interview’, tell your contact that you would like to set up a convenient time to spend 15 - 20 minutes talking about the company and his or her position at the company. Please note that this meeting could be either on the telephone or in person. As this person is doing you a favour, you will need to adhere to their schedule.

  • Set a place to meet or a time to talk on the telephone. If the informational interview is scheduled for a later time, you will have the luxury of asking more in-depth questions about the industry and it is in your best interest to do so. Be punctual and do not go over the agreed upon time limit unless directed by the interviewee.

  • If you are meeting the interviewee in person be sure to treat this meeting seriously. This means that you should do the following:

  • a. Be on time
    b. Be prepared to ask insightful questions
    c. Dress appropriately
    d. Bring a copy of your résumé fir the interviewee, but DO NOT offer it unless the interviewee asks for it
    e. DO NOT ask your contact for a job!
    f. DO ask the interviewee if they know of others in the industry with whom you can contact to set up other information interviews

  • Always follow up with a thank you note. Following up with a thank you note demonstrates your appreciation for the time spent with you. It provides a courteous close to your interaction and signals your openness to future contact.

    The point of this exercise i.e. conducting informational interviews, is to leave a good impression. If you leave a good impression, your name may later be passed along to someone else who is in a position to interview you and this, in turn, may lead you to your next career opportunity. What have you got to lose?