By: Audree López
Informational interviews can be intimidating, almost worst than a first date. Will the person like you? What do you talk about? What should you wear? Don’t talk yourself out of doing them though—they’re essential for building genuine, professional relationships and they might even help you get your big break. In fact, my first job in New York came from a connection I had made six months prior through a 15-minute informational interview with a fashion assistant during a school trip to the city. You never know what will come of all that networking!
Not sure how to get started? Follow these steps.
Do your research.
This is the biggest key to having successful and beneficial informational interviews. If you’re still deciding what career path you want to take, start by looking at a variety of job descriptions and magazine mastheads. You might find a job that you never knew existed! Then, reach out to an assortment of people with different roles, so you can get a sense of what you’re most interested in.
If you’ve already figured out what you want to do, it’s time to really dive in. Who has your dream job? Who works at your favorite publications? What clients/brands are they working with? Map out which people you’d most like to meet with and learn from.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
I get nervous about approaching strangers. (This probably explains why I’m not a fan of dating apps or Sadie Hawkins dances.) The same fear can show up when I ask for an informational interview, but as all my friends with boyfriends tell me, you’ll never know if they’ll say yes unless you ask. Touché relationship gurus, touché.
It’s okay to send out 100 emails to different people asking for 15 minutes of their time. (Just send them separately, not as a mass email!) Be concise—tell them you’re interested in learning about their career journey and that you have some career questions you’d like to ask. It’s also a good idea to mention that you’re not expecting them to give you a job, so they don’t feel pressure if they don’t have any open positions. Then ask what days and times work best. Boom. It’s really that easy! Sure, some people may not respond, but the more emails you send out, the better chance you have of landing a few great interviews.
Prepare before the interview.
Print out copies of your resume in case the person you’re meeting asks to look at it. You should also do some research on her, and make a list of 10 to 20 questions. Try to avoid asking questions you could find the answer to on LinkedIn, like “What job did you have before this?” Instead, find out what she learned from different jobs, what challenges she faces day-to-day, what qualities she look for when hiring employees, etc. You’ll find that info much more helpful when you apply for jobs later on.
Seal the deal.
There is one simple step that is easily forgotten, but can help your informational interview go from good to great: following up with your contact. Make sure to send a thank you email or handwritten note within 24 hours of the interview. Remember, this person is doing you a favor, so treat her with respect. Also, continue to follow up with her every six to eight months. It can be as simple as grabbing coffee or sending her a short email to update her on your life (i.e. school, internships, job hunt, etc.). Make sure to take an interest in her life or company too. Just like that, you’ll be on your way to building a real professional relationship.
Audree López is a fashion assistant at Redbook, a freelance fashion stylist, and founder of Simply Audree Kate. She loves thrift shopping, lipstick and food. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter , Facebook and Pinterest.