Careers

10 Essential Steps to Maximize Your Informational Interviews

If you love learning and like meeting interesting people, informational interviews are the way to go about building your career.

An intentional career-focused conversation can expand your ideas, help you identify new career possibilities, and provide a way to keep up-to-date on what’s happening in your target industry.

Many people arrange informational interviews only when making a career transition, but honestly, they should be an integral part of your investment in your career.

Back in 2015, I completed a counselling certificate. It was a good program that taught me decent practical skills. But I sometimes wonder where my career and business would be if I had invested those 3 hours a week into networking and informational interviews instead.

I talk about what questions you can ask here. There are no perfect questions – instead, ask about the things that interest you. One of the most meaningful questions I ever asked in an informational interview 10 years ago was “How do you see your work making a difference in the world?”  

But the questions aren’t the only thing you should pay attention to when doing informational interviews.

Today I want to focus on the other essential elements that occur before, during, and after the meeting that can help you make a good impression and improve the process overall.

1. Make a Good Impression Before the Meeting: When you initiate an informational interview, be mindful of your communication through the process of arranging the meeting.

Be prompt, enthusiastic, and thankful in all your interactions. And always double-check your spelling and grammar in emails.

2. Send a Reminder: You can send a reminder email the day before your meeting to confirm the time and location. 

3. Attitude: Go in with curiousity and a willingness to listen. People will be more impressed with an openness to learning than your intelligence. And do not try to convert the informational interview into a pitch for a job – this will do more harm than good.

4. Research: Do some research on the person you are meeting and where they have worked in the past.

5. Dress: Dress professionally, even if it's a coffee meeting. 

6. Time: Be early, but not too early. Arrive 10 minutes before your suggested meeting time.

Coming early is especially important if you are meeting at a coffee shop or restaurant. Get a table before the other person arrives so you don't waste time searching for a place to sit. 

If you committed to keeping the informational interview within a certain timeframe, then be sure to wrap up by the appointed time.

7.  Offer to Pay: Offer to buy the person's coffee or lunch. They may decline, but it's a nice gesture and a great investment in your future.

8. Prepare, but be Flexible: Put together thoughtful questions, but don’t put too much focus on the questions at the expense of building the relationship.

People love giving advice and talking about their careers. Be sincerely interested in the person and their journey. This is hopefully the start of a long-term relationship, not just a one-time meeting.

9. Send a Thank You Note: After your meeting, send an email to the person, thanking them for their time and identifying any information that you found particularly useful. 

10.  Stay Connected: Connect with the person on LinkedIn. Look for ways to help them when you can.  And let them know where you ended up, even if it was a while ago since you met up.

For me, informational interviews and networking meetings have turned into jobs, contracts, and client referrals. And as much as that’s awesome, what I really love about the process is the chance to connect with interesting people and build genuine, long-term relationships that benefit us both.  

To your future career success, 

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

 

How to Find Your Dream Job in 2018

If you are at a point in your career where you feel stuck or stagnant, 2018 could be your year.

Land Your Dream Job in 2018.png

The year when you take control of your career and make choices that bring you more career satisfaction and fulfillment. 

The year when you walk away from that toxic work environment and start taking better care of your own mental and emotional well-being. 

The year when you step out and start courageously pursuing your dreams. 

The year when you channel that ambition and get serious about moving along in your career. 

No matter where you are at, there's always a chance for a new beginning and a fresh start. And the opportunities are endless.

The time is now. Don’t wait until things aren’t working to improve your job search. By taking a proactive approach early on, you will save yourself time and headache in the long run.

18 Ways to Land Your New Job 

Ready to land a new job? 

Here are my top 18 suggestions for how to transition to a new job this year. 

First of all, make sure that you have a clear focus on the work you want or type of company that you want to be employed with. If identifying that is your struggle, consider investing in some career coaching to gain the clarity you need. 

Secondly, diversify how you look for work. Most job seekers spend their time applying to online job postings, but this method is only about 30% effective. 

In a survey I conducted of 60 hiring managers, I found that hiring managers sourced new candidates through multiple methods including their company website, job boards, LinkedIn, online resume banks, and networking. (Read the rest of the survey results here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). 

Get Prepared

Preparation is key to making a good impression on a future employer. 

1. Get your marketing materials in order: Invest in developing a resume, cover letter, and possibly business cards that clearly outline the work that you can do.

2. Update your LinkedIn profile: LinkedIn is the standard when it comes to a professional online presence. Make sure your profile speaks to the work you can do. Start connecting with people in your industry or at the companies you want to work for.

3. Evaluate and clean up your social media presence. In my survey, I found that 74% of hiring managers will always or often (over 50% of the time) check out a job seeker’s social media presence. Tighten up your privacy settings if you have content you don’t want employers to see.

4. Assess your skills. As you review job postings and talk to people, determine if your skills are still competitive. If you need more training or skill development, start working on closing the skills gap as soon as possible.

5. Browse job boards regularly to identify jobs you might want to apply to. Also use these boards to do market research on the types of positions, qualifications, and skills that employers are looking for.

6. Post your resume to job banks: You can post your resume online on sites like Indeed, Monster, or CareerBuilder. (Tip: Don’t include your entire address for privacy reasons – just the city and province is fine)

7. Start preparing for interviews: You never know when you might get a call for an interview. Begin reviewing common questions and thinking about your responses.

8. Practice talking about yourself: It’s not easy for most people to talk about themselves. Put together an introduction script that you can use in casual or networking situations.

Get Focused

Many people feel helpless in the process of finding work. They wait for an employer to post their perfect position. But the best way to go is to lay the groundwork BEFORE the position is posted. 

9. Decide what companies you want to work for: Don’t wait for a job posting to come up. Make a list of 40 companies that you are interested in working for.

10. Regularly check company websites for postings: Once you have your target companies, go directly to their websites on a weekly basis to keep tabs on any upcoming positions.

Make 2018 Your Year (1).png

11. Follow companies on social media: One of the easiest ways to stay up-to-date on company news or new positions is to follow companies on social media. I personally use LinkedIn and Facebook for this. 

12. Send an introduction email: Many companies want people who want to work for them. If you are interested in a particular company, reach out to someone at the company and introduce yourself.  

13. Demonstrate your professional expertise. Build up evidence of your professional expertise.  You can blog, comment on online industry groups, or publish to LinkedIn, just as a few examples. 

Get Connected

People hire people. Though employers source candidates in a variety of ways, networking does still play an important part in the recruitment process. 

14. Tap into your network: Networking continues to be critical in landing work. Start talking to the people you know and tell them what you are looking for.

15. Talk to your references: Let your references know that you are looking for work and that they could expect a call. Don’t forget to ask them if they know of any opportunities, too.

16. Develop new relationships: Look for ways to meet new people through social media or face-to-face. Attend events such as workshops, parties, networking mixers, or community groups.

17. Get information: Conduct informational interviews with your network. But don’t stop there. Identify who else you want to talk to and reach out to start a conversation.    

18. Connect with your professional association, union, or sector council: Ask for advice on how to connect with employers and if there are any events or programs you should attend.  

Don't spend another year at work that is not right for you. Make 2018 the year that you step out and take control of your career direction. 

All my best, 

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

3 Ways to Make Better Career Decisions

Looking back, I wish that I experimented more in my career.

About 10 years ago, I wanted to transition out of the Human Resources field. I decided to finish my business degree with the intention of moving into management.

I had it all reasoned out. I liked to work with people plus I also valued responsibility and autonomy. On top of that, I enjoyed home renovation and decorating projects.

Of course, looking at these skills and aptitudes, one career choice seemed clear. Working as a manager at a Home Depot.

Somehow I managed to convince someone to hire me as a manager at Home Depot after finishing school.

First day on the job and I knew that it was a poor fit for me. My back hurt. Helping people select dishwasher options bored me. And I didn't look good in an orange apron.

Looking back, this seems like such an absurd career choice. But thing is that it made sense on paper.

The more I work in the career field, the more I am convinced that we focus too much on making cognitive career decisions. And I believe that we need to move towards making more experiential career choices.

What I should have done was taken a part-time job at Home Depot while completing my education. Or I could have taken on management related responsibilities within my current job. And I should have asked for advice from people who were working as managers.

But I didn’t. And instead, I learned my lesson the hard way. I lasted three months before I found another job.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, trying to make a career change, here’s what I would say to you.

1. Experiment. Let’s say you want to start a career in computer science. Before investing in many years of education, look for ways to test out if this is the right step for you.

For example, you could take on a self-directed programming project. There is enough information on the internet to learn basic programming.

When you work on it, do you find yourself absorbed or bored? Can you imagine doing a job like this for the rest of your life?

2. Talk to People. Do not decide on a career choice in isolation. The tendency is to base decisions on internet research or self reflection. Before you make any serious decisions, have an in-depth conversation with at least 5 people who are in this role. Ask them what their average day is like. What are the job prospects like? What is the work environment like? When I visit my computer engineer husband at work, the office is quiet. The silence would drive me crazy, but he enjoys it.

3. Don’t Make Education Your Default: If you can, get entry-level work before committing to education. This will give you a true sense of what the work is like. And you can develop some key relationships that can help your hiring prospects down the road.

Once you are in a job, find out what training or education your field values. Be wary of advice you receive from school admissions advisors, especially at private schools. They have a vested interest in your enrollment. If you do need further training or education, make sure your field of interest recognizes both the training and the school.

What about you? How have you made your past decisions? What do you wish you did differently?

All the best. You got this. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

How to Rock Your Next Career Conversation with Your Manager

Career Conversation with Your Manager.png

Several years ago, I had an epiphany.  I realized that the only person responsible for my career was me!  It sounds so simple, right?  But for a long time, I had expected the company to be responsible for my progression.

After three years of no performance reviews, I realized I had a choice. I could wait for my manager to talk about my career development in my future performance review.  Or I could take the initiative to start the conversion.

So I wrote an email to one of the leaders in the organization, asking her to have lunch with me to talk about my career.  I was scared to hit the “send” button, but I am glad that I did as she agreed to meet. And over sushi, we talked about the direction of the company and my goals for career development.

We identified some key areas of skill development as well as ways that I could incorporate my new skills into my work. Moving forward, the company gave me some flexibility with my schedule to attend classes. They also paid for few of my professional development activities.  And my manager was always open to any new projects or ideas that I brought forward. 

Begin with Reflection and Research

Even if you do have regular performance reviews, you can still initiate a career conversation outside of review time. Before starting the conversation with your manager, you need to take some time to think about what you want to get out of this conversation. What is your end goal? 

A great place to start is through some personal reflection and company research. Here’s what you might want to be thinking about.  

  • What are the strengths that I can bring to the company?  What are some of my accomplishments thus far?  What areas do I want further development in?
  • What do I see as being the next logical step in my career progression at this company?  Is this what I want or do I need to explore other options within the company?
  • What skills and experience are in demand in my industry? How could I obtain them within the company or through my own efforts?
  • What training or professional development are necessary for me to progress in my career? 
  • Can I build my skills through taking on additional work or a special project at work?
  • Where do I need improvement and how to do I get there? Is there one area that I consistently seem to struggle? 
  • What do I foresee as being key priorities for the company in the future? How could I add value?

Before your meeting, you may also want to put together some supporting documents of your work such as client reviews or work samples.  When you are ready, book a meeting with your manager. Be sure to let them know why you want to meet. In my email, I included a few of the questions that I was looking to have answered.  This allows your manager time to think and check into company policy before your meeting.    

Hopefully, your manager will appreciate your initiative and be supportive of your career progression. But at the end of the day, know that you are ultimately in charge of navigating your career!

You got this. Best of luck. 

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story. She loves working with clients to help them successfully transition to good work. She believes that no one should dread going to work in the morning. Her focus is supporting her clients to increase their confidence and learn how to communicate to get what they want. Connect with her at kristin@careerstory.ca to start a conversation.