Networking and informational interviewing involve having a “career conversation” with someone for the purpose of exploring careers or job searching. These conversations are about building relationships with people who can give you information and advice, not job interviews. They are effective tools in addition to exploring web and print resources and can help you:
- Gather information about careers, industries, workplaces.
- Gain referrals to other professionals or career opportunities.
Although you might not have a direct contact in a particular field, you may know someone who does.
List everyone you know who knows you:
- Family and friends
- Co-workers and supervisors, past and present
- Group members; social, study, professional, etc.
- Faculty and academic advisors
- Familiar faces; neighbors, customers, office staff, etc.
Make New Contacts
Expand your network by getting involved: volunteer in the community, join a social, service or professional organization (better yet, become a leader of an organization).
Friends of Friends
Ask your contacts for possible connections:“Do you know someone who would know anything about__________?”
Once you have a possible contact, send them an email or give them a phone call with your request, including how you got their name, for example:
- I’m a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in family science. I work at XXX with XXX who suggested I contact you regarding job search strategy as you are experienced in this field. Do you have some time to talk by phone, or could I ask you some questions by email?
- I found your name through UNL Career Services. I am interested in learning more about careers in community planning, especially in environmental issues. As you are in that field, staff there thought you may be able to offer some career information from a current planners’ perspective. Would it be possible for us to meet briefly to discuss the field?
- I am a UNL student considering a career in banking. The Guided Professional Shadowing coordinator at UNL gave me your name as someone who would be willing to help me learn more about the profession by spending time with you on the job. I would like to schedule a date to shadow you for a half or full day as you go about your usual schedule. If possible, a short interview with you about the banking industry and your career path would also be very helpful.
Maximize your experience by preparing questions in advance. Develop questions in relationship to your purpose for meeting.
Make A Positive Impression
At the meeting:
- Dress appropriately to demonstrate your professionalism
- Arrive to the meeting early and stay within the meeting time you arranged
- Be courteous to everyone you encounter
- What types of skills and knowledge does one need to perform this job?
- Thank the individual with whom you met and others at the site who were helpful
After the meeting or conversation:
- Send a thank you to each new contact, which is a courtesy but also strengthens your relationship with the person.
- Keep notes on your conversations so you can follow-up appropriately and accurately.
- Follow through on all leads and deliver what you promised, building your positive reputation and that of the person who referred you.
- Let your contacts know when you have found a position or made firm career decisions and thank them again.
LinkedIn is an online professional networking site. Users can search for people, employers and groups.
- Create a LinkedIn profile to help you stay connected to your network and to identify new contacts. A strong network is built on real connections with others. Don’t attempt to build your contacts with people you have never met. Likewise, don’t accept invitations from people you do not know.
- Provide relevant information such as a headline, photo, work history, and education. Keep your profile up to date.
- Customize the default invitation message and be sure to indicate how you know or where you met the person.
- Default/Standard Message: I’d like to add you to my professional network.
- Your Customized Message: It was a pleasure talking with you at the UNL Networking Reception. I would like to stay in contact through LinkedIn.
- Join Groups Purposefully. LinkedIn offers groups for people who share certain interests. For example, join the Official University of Nebraska-Lincoln Alumni Association group to search for UNL grads who work in a specific industry, organization, career or geographic region. Contribute to discussions when appropriate.
- Stay connected: offer to help contacts when you see an opportunity to do so, send notes for birthdays, promotions, or with information specifically for the individual (even a great recipe for their favorite dish).
- Friend, Follower, or Contact? In addition to LinkedIn, professional contacts may connect on Facebook and Twitter. If you decide to add professional contacts to your friends or followers, protect your professional image:
- Use the message function to communicate individually rather than posting private content on a friend’s site
- Resist littering with games, quizzes, and photos
- Request to connect only once