1. Identify the people in your network
- Brainstorm people in your network. Who might be able to help you advance toward your goals? Who might know someone who can?
- Try to identify 15 or more potential contacts.
2. Develop a list of questions to ask professionals
- Start by thinking about your goal(s) for the meeting. What do you want to know/learn? What information is the person you’re reaching out to likely to be able to provide?
- Your list of questions will likely be different for each informational interview.
- Check out the list of suggested questions in The Networking Guide for possible questions.
3. Write a networking outreach email to request a meeting
- Engage the reader by making a connection with him/her (through shared interests, etc.)
- Introduce yourself beyond stating your name.
- Help the reader understand what stage of career planning/searching you are in.
- Explain (briefly) why you have chosen him/her to reach out to (e.g., geographic location, shared interests, graduate degree choice, company/organization, etc.) and state your goal for the meeting.
- Request a meeting and be clear about how you wish to meet (in person, by phone or Skype.)
- Provide your general availability and a specific request for the person to respond to.
- Have a subject line that will catch the person’s attention (for example – says “Hamilton” for alums, says connection’s name or high school or other way you are connected.
- Keep it short (one paragraph).
- Be professional (no “love language”, no typos, use appropriate salutation: Mr., Mrs. Dr. etc.)
- Give people at least two weeks’ notice for an informational interview.
- Prioritize and consider sending a few networking outreach emails at a time. (Keep the number of requests you have out there manageable.)
- Try keeping track of contacts on a spreadsheet so that you don’t drop any balls.
- Follow up when you have not heard from people. Professionals are often busy but that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to talk to you. Wait about 10 days between outreaches and consider changing your subject line.
4. Conduct meeting(s)
Refer to The Networking Guide for detailed information on how to prepare for and conduct an informational interview, including ideas for starting and ending the conversation.
5. Follow up after meetings
- Write and send a thank you note/email within two days of your meeting!
- If you were given advice or action steps, follow through on whatever was suggested and subsequently follow up with your contact to let him/her know that you did what they suggested.
- Look for additional opportunities to keep in touch with your contact.