March 18, 2013

Job Search for the Mindful Life: Deepen Connections—Informational Interviews & Mentorship


Welcome to this strange miniseries I’ve created to help those who are in need of a Job Search for the Mindful Life.

Before reading this piece, I suggest you first read Part I: Know Your Mission and Part II: Building Your Network with Purpose.

If you’ve been following the tips in Parts I and II, you have a clear mission and have been building your network.

So what now?

There are a few steps you can take to deepen your relationships and improve your professional development (and often these two combined lead to job opportunities).

Before we get into building relationships, I must stop for a public service announcement—you are not building relationships with good professional connections just to use them—remember to give before you get. If you are asking someone to take time out of their day, ask how you can be of service to them in some way and show your genuine gratitude for any help they give you.

Also, make sure you actually have something to talk about with this connection. Become a life-long student and always be reading up, listening to, and watching the latest news in your industry and outside. Know important thought leaders and works of interest (stay tuned for a future article from me on my favorite free geek-out tools).

Now, let’s get into three levels of deeper professional relationships than just the causal networking meeting.

1. Mini-Informational Interviews (5—15 minutes). Often these are ideal for someone you are reaching out to with little or no actual connection (say through an alumni network or on LinkedIn). In her 5 Minute Rule to Find a Mentor and Get Expert Advice, Natalie MacNeil suggests requesting a five minute phone call to ask your contact of interest your three most pressing questions. This is a way to get quick advice and an opportunity to show someone you respect that you are insightful and ask smart questions.

2. Informational Interviews (20—90 minutes). Informational interviews are a way to build your relationship with someone. This may be a common term among recent grads, but anyone can do it.

First, for the most part, people actually love sharing what they do for a living. Second, people love helping those who take an interest in what they do and I’ve found they will go out of their way to help you IF you’re sharp and respectful. I still to this day use a Tufts University guide to Informational Interviews. This fantastic resource outlines setting goals for your meetings, suggestions on how to approach someone, and, best yet, suggestions of questions, which help get your mind primed to think of your own questions.

The two golden questions they outline for every informational interview are 1) Who else should I be talking to? and 2) If you were in my position, what steps would you be taking?

One big mistake to avoid—don’t ask for a job; whomever you’re meeting with will know you want a job, so there’s no need to be pushing it, which can come across as being desperate. So start taking folks out to coffee and deepening the connection!

3. Mentorship (Ongoing). This is the ultimate goal for your professional and personal growth. I don’t know any tricks for getting a mentor—it takes time, ongoing contact, and a desire on your contact’s part to mentor you. Much of what I know about job searching is because I was lucky enough to have a career counselor at Tufts who I still consider a mentor.

Most important, remember to pay it forward.

In all of this talk about building relationships, make sure you are doing your part. Is there someone you’ve met recently that you could take a more active role in supporting, connecting, or even mentoring? From my perspective, paying it forward always pays itself back ten fold.

Next week in the final installment of Job Search for the Mindful Life, we will discuss Leveraging Social Media to Support Your Job Search.

How do you build strong professional relationships?



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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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