A few months ago, I began the daunting process of job searching, and now I’m excited to announce my search is over. That’s right — I got a job. In fact, I’ve already started part-time. After graduation, I’ll be a full-time project manager for the small marketing agency, Opus Creative. This company saw the value I could offer as an MBA candidate with a creative background, and they offered me an amazing opportunity for career advancement and job growth. And here’s the thing: This opportunity didn’t come from a job board or an online application. It all started with an informational interview.
The time for an informational interview is now
You know how you’re always being told to build up our network? It’s not just so you can brag about your number of LinkedIn connections. Reach out to the people you know and the people you want to know. Don’t be afraid to play the student card while you still can. If you’re considerate in your request, you’ll find most people are happy to lend you an hour of their time. Chances are somebody did them this kind of favor at some point.
What you’ll get out of it
I’ll be honest, I originally underestimated the value of an informational interview. After I did one, I was eager to arrange a few more. Why are they so worthwhile? First of all, there’s no pressure. I didn’t have the butterflies that come with a job interview. You get to be yourself in a relaxed setting and build rapport with professionals in your field.
My handful of conversations with marketing and creative agencies around town helped me understand what I’m looking for in an employer — and what’s not for me. I got to see how others built their careers, and I found that it’s rarely ever a straight path. I got advice about how to hone my resume and better convey my unique skillset in a cover letter.
One of the most valuable takeaways was hearing where another professional saw me fitting into an organization. We tend to set boundaries for ourselves based on our experience, but others can help us realize other ways we can contribute.
How to get the most out of your informational interview
Start by asking about their experience, and then talk about your own goals. Consider asking variations of these kinds of open-ended questions:
- How did you build a career in the field? (You should already have an idea because you already stalked their LinkedIn profile).
- What’s it like here? (This may seem vague, but it helps steer the discussion toward team dynamics and culture).
- What projects are you currently working on?
- What’s rewarding about the field? What’s challenging?
- How do I leverage my skills and experience? (Be specific and have your resume in hand).
- Where would you see someone like me fitting into your company? What experience, skills, traits do you look for in new hires? Do you have any advice for improving my resume, job search or interviews?
Let the conversation wander. Take notes, and echo what you’re hearing. Ask for clarification when you need it, and try to dig a little deeper when needed.
Don’t forget to follow up and thank them after meeting. A hand-written thank-you goes a long way in the digital age.
You never know where it may lead
So all I have to do is line up some informational interviews, and someone will hand me a job? No, probably not. I got super lucky, but the point is there is much to be gained. I definitely got a confidence boost after meeting professionals in the c-suite. Then, when it was time for the real interview — the one where my heart was pounding because it might actually mean a challenging role and an MBA-level paycheck — I was ready because I was clear on exactly what it is I bring to the table and what I was looking for.
Kyle Huck has a background in graphic design and web-based marketing. He graduated from The Portland MBA in 2018.