11 WAYS TO GET AN INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEW WITH SOMEONE WHO INSPIRES YOU
“You are the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with”
– Jim Rohn
In law school, everyone competes for jobs, and I must have filled out over 150 job applications over the 3 years. My greatest regret is all the time I wasted on this.
When I graduated from law school, despite all the applications I sent out, I didn’t have a job lined up. I decided then and there to not send out any more cover letters and resumes. Instead, I reached out to people, revealed the goal I had, and asked for help.
One of the most valuable things I did was informational interviews.
Every single lawyer I reached out to for an informational interview responded to my email, many were willing to help me, and if we did meet, they usually bought me lunch or coffee. People want to help, share their story and support you. I didn’t mention that I was looking for a job when I asked people to meet, and when it came up in conversation, the people I met were willing to at the very least refer me to their friends at other organizations who might hire me.
I highly recommend doing informational interviews before you graduate and to gather information about potential career paths or project opportunities.
These days you can essentially reach out to anyone who inspires you or is doing the work you want to do; whether by email or social media.
Here are the steps I use when reaching out to people, as well as detailed items to include in your initial email when you reach out, some of which were shared with me by others.
A) Know your intention & goal
Before you reach out to someone, you should know exactly what you are working towards, where you’re at, and what you need help with. Sometimes people reach out to me for general advice, and I often ask them what is their specific intention. This helps focus the conversation and makes sure we’re not wasting the other person’s time. I do meet people for general conversations and to swap stories, but even then, I know that I’m meeting them for that specific purpose.
B) Organize a list
Look up people you want to reach out to on the Internet, and put them into a spreadsheet. Have columns for their name, position, who referred you to them, and look up what they’re up to so that you have something to speak with them about when you do connect. The interaction can’t just be one-way. You have to be interested in them too and add value in some way to their life in the conversation as well.
C) Reach Out & Connect
Comment on their blog, retweet them, google them and search their sites, and find a way to get in touch with them by email.
D) You can’t get a “Yes” unless you ask.
Ask for an informational interview by sending them an email or message.
There are some general things to do in this email. In general, keep it short, polite, and to the point. Here is an overview of what each sentence should say:
1) What your name is, your title/role (i.e. student, or in my case, professional speaker), and who referred you to speak with them.
2) Why you’re reaching out to them i.e. you want to learn about what they do, the nature of their organization, or learn more about their career path or process to where they are now. Perhaps a sentence such as:
“I’m interested in exploring as a career, and was wondering if you would be willing to share your insights and experiences in the field.”
3) Why they inspire you – compliment them, tell them what they’re up to that is inspiring, and show gratitude for the work they do and the impact it has had on you. – inspired by Rita Chand
4) If possible, add value by asking them how you could support them, or sharing an article or video that they might find interesting based on what you know they are passionate about.
5) Try to start a dialogue first before asking for help by asking them one simple-to-answer but thought-provoking question related to their work or life philosophies. Asking for help can come after at least three or four genuine email exchanges.
-inspired by Ryan Marrinan’s article on Tim Ferris’ blog
6) Show that you’re credible and genuine by saying what you’ve accomplished, who you’ve worked for, and places you’ve been published, etc. (that relate to this interaction)
7) Share what you’re working on, where you’re stuck, what you need help with, and what they know/do that can help you.
8) Set up a time to meet or speak on the phone, offer them the option of referring you to someone else that could help, and say that you’ll follow up. Perhaps a last paragraph such as:
“Please let me know if you would be willing to speak over the phone or meet in the next two weeks. If you can’t meet, please feel free to guide me or refer me to resources, organizations or people who might be able to. I will follow up with you in a week or so by phone.”
-inspired by Tom Morkes
9) Thank them for their consideration.
10) Follow up by phone. Because you said you would. People are busy, and get tons of emails. Following up, sometimes more than 3 times, is what it takes to get in touch with extremely busy and inspiring people. Not hearing back from someone isn’t a “No”. – inspired by Gregory Berg
11) Show you have an interesting personality in the way you write. For instance, a lot of people just end their emails with “Best Regards”. What does that even mean? Worse still is “Warm regards”. Try not to be too dull and neutral. Add humour, vulnerability, be personable, and make the person feel like they want to hang out with you. – inspired by Rebecca Beaton