Years ago, I was interning at a public relations firm. As you know, with interning, your experience is what you make of it. Not getting an income motivated me to take advantage of the learning experience I needed to succeed.
At one particular event, I met an executive for a popular business in the city. Knowing that it was highly unlikely that I would have the opportunity to connect with her again, I grabbed her card and promised to follow up later. Later that evening, I researched her online. I learned as much as I needed to about her before deciding to reach out to her. Once I did, I felt confident in what I wanted to say. My interaction with her via email went a little (actually a lot – word for word) like this:
Good morning ______,
I don’t know if you remember me but I was assisting the photographer with names at the ________ event a few weeks ago. I asked you for your card and I wanted touch base with you.
I am currently interning at ________. Although it ends soon, I feel comfortable enough to start my career search now. I am a huge fan and frequent visitor of the ________ and being in an art environment everyday is something I look forward to.
I’m so inspired by your previous accomplishments at ________. Branding, promotion and social media are things that I am good at as well. I would love the opportunity to hear how you made the transition so successfully at your current role.
I look forward to hearing from you.
From there, she thanked me for my kind email and suggested we do lunch the following week.
I had no idea a simple email would lead to her actually responding and suggesting we meet for lunch. I really wanted to work for her company but I never mentioned that at all. The point of that meeting was to learn as much as I could from her and see how the relationship would naturally evolve. A month later, I would apply to a position at her company. Six months after that, I would get two interviews: one with her and another with her supervisor.
An informal meeting such as this could be called an informational interview, and will give you first-hand knowledge on your chosen industry, from an industry leader. It’s the chance to learn more about an individual working in an industry you want to learn more about without the same pressure as a formal interview.
What I learned from that experience is this: although the benefits of an informational interview are endless, there are three main reasons why you should request one if possible.
1. You expand your professional network.
I’m grateful to have had that internship that opened my network to a completely new industry. My initial email to the executive was based purely on intrigue. I recognized her at an event, I emailed her, and that email led to lunch.
2. You build confidence in your interviewing skills.
An informal meeting is very casual in nature. It is a time to get to know your contact and practice. By the time I actually interviewed with her, I wasn’t nervous at all. It was as fluid as talking with an old friend.
3. You get one step closer to potentially working with the company.
During that time, she gave me tips on what to say in the formal interview. Thankfully, I did get to meet with her manager and used all of her feedback in that interview.
An informational interview is an invaluable aspect of career building. As a job seeker or curious freelancer, reaching out to gain insight about a company in the form of an informational interview is a strategy with rewards in your favor.
Lucy is a Creative Circle candidate in Atlanta. She is a freelance writer and visual storyteller. When she’s not writing, she’s most likely exploring new restaurants around town, traveling, taking pictures or reading blogs dedicated to SELF – awareness, development/discovery and expression. If you are interested in working with Lucy, contact Creative Circle Atlanta.