I don't understand networking.
April 3, 2012 9:10 PM Subscribe
I’m a dissatisfied academic looking to enter the workforce, and I’ve been trying to use informational interviews to begin building a professional network, but it doesn’t seem to be working. What am I doing wrong?
posted by The Art of Sockpuppetry to Work & Money (24 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
I’ve done five informational interviews with established, mid-career professionals in four different fields. I’ve met them through my university’s career center database, volunteering, friend-of-a-friend connections, and my part-time work.
I abide by basic informational interview etiquette: I don’t ask for a job, I offer to buy lunch/coffee, I don’t take up more than 20 minutes (unless the interviewee repeatedly tells me that I may do so), I send a thank-you note afterwards, I research the industry and the interviewee beforehand, etc.
Here are some typical questions that I might ask: “How did you get this job?” “What’s a typical day like?” “What do you think the most important qualifications are?” “What kinds of entry-level opportunities should I be pursuing?”
In addition to those, I always ask something like “Can you think of three other people for me to talk to?” The answer is always “Hmmm... not really....” Sometimes, I even wind up asking this question several times in one interview, as the interviewee repeatedly brings up related fields that I might look into. And I’ll say “Great! I hadn’t thought of that. Do you know anyone in [that field] I can talk to?” And they’ll say “Hmmm... no, not really.”
I’ve also seen people on AskMe complain about informational interviewers who come in once and are never heard from again. I am guilty of this, but I don’t know how I should be keeping in touch with informational interview contacts. My job search is going quite poorly, so I don’t have any good news to share. I don’t want to be a nuisance and contact them when I have nothing substantive to say.
Of course, I’m grateful that people are willing to give me any time at all! But everyone talks about informational interviews as a great way to build up a network, and it doesn’t seem to be working for me. Am I doing something wrong? Or do I just need to keep plugging away? “Keep trying, and be more patient” is an acceptable answer to this question.