Networking doesn’t have to stop once you’ve landed that first job. Establishing a wide and supportive network can prove invaluable when navigating the post-grad years. So how do you make connections without the help of classmates, professors or student conference discounts? Through informational interviewing.
Informational interviews are semi-formal meetings where you learn about a contact’s career experience and get advice on topics of your choosing. It can be tough to juggle building a network and focusing on your new role so here are a few tips to help with the balancing act.
- Use Your Surroundings
- No matter where you land there’s a built in network waiting for you. Conducting informational interviews with your new colleagues is a great way to both break the ice and learn about culture. Consider asking about ways that your position can help with a colleague’s projects, tasks or responsibilities. Signaling that you’re looking for opportunities to learn and collaborate can go a long way to build allies within the workplace. Just make sure you follow up on any ideas that come up!
- Keep and Organize Notes
- I always bring pen and paper to my informational interviews. What I write down helps to remember concepts that I’ll point to in a thank you note. Unfortunately bad hand writing and long passages can make it difficult to sift through physical notes. Try using Evernote (or another online repository) to organize your thoughts. I use a notebook entitled “Informational Interviews” and tag each entry with searchable topics. For example if I met with a Career Counselor at MIT I would use the tags “Boston” “MIT” and “Career Counselor”. That way if I was to search Boston, or Career Counseling, that meeting would pop up.
- Use the LinkedIn Community
- LinkedIn is constantly changing. Over the years it has gone from a static online resume to pseudo social networking platform. Regardless of the changes there are still opportunities to connect with likeminded professionals everywhere you look. Joining student affairs groups can provide news about staff transitions or innovative projects happening at other schools. That information can be useful to stoke conversation at an informational interview. At the end of every conversation I ask if it would be ok to connect on LinkedIn, and later add them with a personalized note.
Ultimately meeting new people, especially as a new professional, can be daunting. Personally I have found conducting informational interviews as a first year student affairs professional to be instrumental in my transition out of grad school and into a successful practitioner.