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Three Reasons You Should Be Doing Informational Interviews...Even If You’re Happily Employed

Why valuable career conversations aren’t just for job-seekers

by Jaime Hiraishi last modified Feb 19, 2014 06:40 PM
Considered a chore by some, the informational interview can actually be an incredibly valuable resource for anyone who cares about the trajectory of their career. Sure, they can help you cultivate relationships with professionals who might eventually provide a job connection. But that's a sure-fire way to make your interviewee feel used. So what are these career conversations really good for? ...
Three Reasons You Should Be Doing Informational Interviews...Even If You’re Happily Employed
Feb 19, 2014 Impact Careers, Resources

Considered a chore by some, the informational interview can actually be an incredibly valuable resource for anyone who cares about the trajectory of their career. Sure, they can help you cultivate relationships with professionals who might eventually provide a job connection. But expecting a quid pro quo like that is a sure-fire way to make your interviewee feel…well…used.

So what are these career conversations really good for? They can help you better understand different industries, roles, and other professional challenges. Which makes them important both during a job search and when you’re not actively looking. In fact, getting to know people in other organizations and different jobs can make you better at yours.

Here are three reasons you should schedule your next informational interview right now:

1. Build better relationships

If you’re job searching
Most positions are filled through “warm” contacts (people you already have some connection with), but most people continue to blanket the market with cold applications and resumes. Instead, spend about 80-90% of your time developing relationships with new people and 10-20% of your time applying to online job postings.

Not on the job hunt?
Reaching out to new people when you’re not in the market for a job will not simply keep you front-of-mind when you do start exploring new opportunities. It also gives you the opportunity to make yourself useful to other people by sharing knowledge and resources. This builds good will, which goes a long way toward leaving a good impression on people.

2. Get an insider’s point of view

If you’re job searching
Use these conversations to explore new industries or roles. Discover what an organization you might be interested in is really like by focusing on your interviewee’s personal experience there. What challenges are they facing? What do they enjoy most about their current role or employer? Use this information to inform – or adjust – your own approach.

Not on the job hunt?
Informational interviews can expose you to new ways of approaching your own job. What industry trends are others seeing? Are there best practices that you can share? This kind of conversation can be incredibly valuable, and can lead to lasting relationships and new solutions.

3. People want to help – they’re just waiting for you to ask

If you’re job searching
If someone has agreed to meet with you, they’ve agreed to invest time helping you – so take advantage of it. Expecting a job offer may be unreasonable, but you need to be honest about your intentions. “If you need something, you need to tell people you need something,” says career blogger and Idealist.org editor Allison Jones. “When I’m open about what I’m looking for, people are more than willing to help.”

Not on the job hunt?
The same principle applies for those who are happily employed. Have a challenge at work that could use outside input? Tap into your network for advice before reinventing the wheel.

Okay, I’m ready to connect...now what?

  • Put the word out to everyone you know and see if they can introduce you to other people working in roles aligned with your job search target.
  • Introduce yourself at conferences and events, and use Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media channels to surface relevant contacts.
  • Read our Six Tips for an Effective Informational Interview blog
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