Networking is icky! …or maybe no
Ok, for some of us, the thought of networking is just plain icky, not to mention scary. To be honest, that was how I felt, especially when I was still new to my field and did not have any work experience. I thought networking was just another work for “sucking up.” And then I realized, networking is just a means of gathering and sharing information. It doesn’t need to be icky.
As a college student, if you have questions about an assignment, about a new concept that’s been presented in class, or about an upcoming exam, I hope you feel comfortable approaching your instructor with your questions. You’d probably call or email, or you might seek out your instructor before/after class, or during his or her office hours.
Likewise, if you have questions about a particular occupation or about working for a specific organization, it makes perfect sense, and is absolutely acceptable, to seek out professionals who can answer those questions during an informational interview.
Are professionals willing to be interviewed? Many are willing, but be respectful of their time by asking smart questions. Let’s return to the example of asking your instructor a question about an assignment. The conversation with your instructor is usually most effective if you have specific questions in mind. If you approached your instructor with, “Can you tell me about the assignment?” they’d probably say, “What part of the assignment?” or “Weren’t you listening in class?” On the other hand, if you asked, “You mentioned we should cite at least 6 sources. May I cite blogs or should I only site academic journals?” your instructor knows what specific information to clarify for you.
Likewise, when conducting informational interviews, you want to have specific questions in mind that probe deeper than any information you might read online or in a book. “From my readings, it seems that art therapy is gaining momentum and seeing some real growth. Is that consistent with what you’ve been seeing in the field?” If you were pursuing a career in art therapy, it would be useful to know whether or not there was demand for art therapists, so a question like the one above helps you get an answer that will assist you in your decision-making. It also gives the professional you’re interviewing a specific question to address. Informational interviews can certainly vary in length and depth of conversation, but I suggest requesting 20-30 minutes of the professional’s time and generating 10-15 thoughtful questions to ask. You can always ask fewer questions or add more as the conversation progresses.
Can informational interviewing get you a job? Maybe, but usually not directly. (A friend of mine was offered a job at the end of an informational interview, but that was definitely an exception, not the rule!)
Hopefully you can see that networking (of which, informational interviewing is a legitimate form), doesn’t have to be icky. So, get out there and start networking!
About the author: Career development professional with 10 years of experience in career advising. Specializes in working with undergraduate students with little-to-no work experience. Special interests include: international students, immigrant populations, parents transitioning back into the workforce, faith in the workplace, and Christian career counseling. Grace’s site, Sweet Careers, provides tips, advice, videos, and tutorials to help job seekers find meaningful careers.
Article courtesy of the Recruiting Blogswap, a content exchange service sponsored by CollegeRecruiter.com, a leading site for college students looking for internships and recent graduates searching for entry level jobs and other career opportunities.