By Kelsey Mulvey
Networking isn’t just some buzzword. If you want to switch jobs, expand your side hustle, or simply be in the know, it’s important to connect with people in the industry.
Press events and Ed’s slew of workshops and happy hours are great ways to meet some of the biggest names in media, but if you’re looking to get some personalized, one-on-one time with an editor you really admire, you should set up an informational interview.
But scheduling an informational interview (let alone getting a reply) isn’t easy. To help, we asked Charreah Jackson, Senior Lifestyle and Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and author of Boss Bride: The Powerful Woman’s Playbook for Love & Success, on how to coordinate a productive informational interview.
1. Cast a wide net.
You should look to have a diverse range of editors in your network with various experience levels, says Jackson. Keep in mind different levels come with different strengths. A senior-level editor might be involved hiring decisions but is usually shorter on time. mid-level editor probably has more time to meet with you, but less likely to be a direct link to a job. And a junior-level editor might have the most relevant advice, since she’s likely been in your shoes a year or so ago, and insight on how to actually get in the door, she says.
2. Fine tune your subject line.
Familiarity and flattery go far, says Jackson. You should always ask a contact or mentor who they know that you should know and leverage their relationship, she says. “On my first email to a magazine editor turned television producer, Mitzi Miller, I put in the subject line ‘Joyce Sent Me,’ our shared mentor’s name,” says Jackson. If you don’t have a personal connection you can lead with, mention a story or column they did that you genuinely liked. You can also use something like, ‘Informational Request: Ithaca Student in NY for July.’ “Magazine editors live by deadlines, so letting them know that you will be in town for a limited time helps us move to accommodate the request.”
3. Do your homework.
“Read their LinkedIn page and Google results. Share a link to your portfolio or talk about your experience. The more you show you’ve taken your career and me serious, the more willing I am to share my time,” she says.
4. Keep following up.
Jackson recommends following up after a week if you don’t hear back. People are busy. When following up, do not just forward your previous email, which comes off as rude. Instead, reply to your previous email saying, “Just circling back” or “Wanted to check in and make sure you received my last email.’ Jackson says you should be afraid to continue to follow up if you still don’t hear back. “My senior year in college I emailed a web editor at ESSENCE every month to keep the relationship warm. For every three emails I sent, she replied to one. If I didn’t hear back from Christmas I moved on and sent a Happy New Year note. She turned out to be my first boss out of college and would tell everyone we emailed all the time when I was in school. Just because you don’t get a reply, doesn’t mean they didn’t see it,” says Jackson.
5. Be prepared.
“Come with questions. Show up no more than 10 minutes early so you have time to get through security and bring your notebook,” says Jackson. “I am surprised by the people who ask to meet and don’t take notes. I will often give sites or names that you may not remember.”
Kelsey Mulvey is a New York-based writer and commerce reporter at Business Insider. She has written for several publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Time Out New York, LuckyMag.com, Wallpaper.com. Check out more of her work at KelseyMulveyWrites.com and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.