Networking can be stressful, especially when you’re setting up informational interviews with people who have your dream job. It’s tempting to view an informational interview as a chance to ask for a job, but your contact will be more likely to think about you should a job opening arise, if you ask thoughtful and insightful questions, are really interested in your contact’s experiences, and keep in touch after your meeting.
Just like a job interview, you want to come prepared; do some research on your contact’s company. Have they been in the news lately? Are they doing something particularly innovative? Come prepared with questions that showcase your awareness of industry news, but also your desire to learn more. Ask how they got to where they are today; did they need a specific degree? Do they recommend going to grad school or getting a certain certification? Ask what they like about the job and what they wish they could change. Whoever you’re talking to probably wants to share all this information with you, so you just have to ask.
It’s important not to drop the ball after your initial meeting. It may feel awkward to email them again in a few weeks just to check back in, even if it’s a short comment about how you’ve recently graduated and have moved to the area, or you’re asking their opinion about a recent article, but it’s worth it. If you make the effort first, they’re more likely to respond and remember you in the future. Just keep in mind that you’re building a network of connections and relationships, and any good relationship is a two-way street.
For more information, consider Arnie Fertig’s article on the informational interview from U.S. News and World Report.