You’re starting to get your networking “sea legs” so to speak, introducing yourself around the office, asking for business cards at receptions, and making valuable connections for the future. One way to maximize these connections is to ask to conduct informational interviews with professionals working in your field of interest.
These meetings are a great way to find how someone 5, 10 or 15 years ahead of you got to where they are now. Make it a goal for the summer to schedule at least one informational interview while you are in DC!
Don’t be afraid to ask your supervisor or other people you’ve met for recommendations of who to contact. Every successful professional was once in your shoes and will likely be happy to help. Once you’ve identified the person you would like to meet with, schedule the meeting via email. Suggest a specific time and place, but be flexible to his or her schedule. Meeting at the office or a quick coffee may be a better bet time-wise than asking for a lunch timeslot.
Make sure that you have fully researched the person’s organization and any background details you can find so that you are able to ask intelligent questions. Arrive a few minutes early – your contact is taking time out of his or her busy day to meeting with you.
DURING THE MEETING
Bring a copy of your resume and ask for feedback. Plan and prioritize your questions ahead of time. You are able to ask more candid questions than you might during an actual job interview, but remember to keep it professional. Here are some topics that are appropriate to cover:
- How did you get to your current position?
- What level of education is necessary to succeed in the field?
- Are there specific courses that you should be focusing on during your undergraduate education?
- What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of your chosen career?
- General information on salary and benefits to be expected in the field, but do not ask personal questions related to specific circumstances.
- Recommendations for job searching techniques upon graduation.
AFTER THE MEETING
Type up your notes from the meeting so that you may reference them down the road. You should also send a hand-written or emailed thank you note right away. It is important to show your gratitude to those who go out of their way to assist you. Make sure to stay in touch – this contact may be a valuable networking partner for years to come!