- What is Networking?
- Informational Interviewing
- Why do an Informational Interview?
- Who to Contact and How to Find them
- What Motivates Professionals to Grant Informational Interviews?
- How To Set Up an Informational Interview
- How to prepare for the Informational Interview
- Sample Questions to Ask
- Suggestions during the Interview
- Follow-up after the Interview
- Networking with Alumni
- Career Fairs
- Networking for Veterans
Networking, in a professional sense, is an organized method of making links from the people you know to the people they know - to exchange information, advice, contacts or support. Networking is a process of building relationships, which will continue throughout your career.
- Obtain information about your field
- Clarify your job target/skills
- Make contacts at companies where a position may exist
- Get the names of additional people who could know of a possible position
Make a list of people you know; consider the following categories:
- Family/Inner Circle: Relatives, extended family (in-laws, close friends of family), business associates of relatives
- School: Professors, past teachers, administrators (your program coordinator, academic advisor), support staff, alumni
- Friends: People you socialize with, see at parties, parents/family of those friends, friends you rarely see but talk to frequently, e-mail contacts
- Athletics/Recreation: Members of leagues, intramural teams, coaches, people you talk to at the gym
- Clubs/Organizations: Fraternity/sorority members, professional association members, place of worship
- Past Employers: Supervisors, co-workers, customers
Once you have identified whom you know, it's essential to find out whom they know. Put the word out. Talk to people! Tell others that you are looking for advice and information on job openings and careers. Ask specifically whether your contacts know anyone who can help. Give them a copy of your resume. Organization is a key to good networking; be sure to develop a way to keep track of all your leads.
Informational interviewing is the process of talking to people about their professions or areas of expertise. It is a very helpful way of gaining information about an occupation or potential employer directly from a person who has insider knowledge about the field. Informational interviewing can be as easy as striking up a conversation with friends or others about their occupations, but taking full advantage of this career exploration tool benefits from a more methodical approach.
The purpose of an informational interview is not to get a job. The goal is to find out about jobs that you might like and to see if they fit your interests, skills, and personality.
Informational interviews can help you:
- Learn more about the specifics of working in a particular occupation
- Focus career goals; Decide among different occupations or choose an occupational specialty
- Discover occupations that you did not know existed
- Observe a work environment first hand and perhaps arrange a shadowing experience
- Find various ways to prepare for a career
- Gather ideas for volunteer, seasonal, part-time, and internship/coop opportunities related to a specific field
- Learn more about an organization or place of employment that you might consider working for in the future
- Polish your communication and interviewing skills and gain confidence for a later job interview
Utilizing connections you already have (friends, family, professors, career counselors, social network connections, the RIT Career Center’s Professional Network of alumni, professional associations, professional clubs or organizations, LinkedIn, etc.), look for people to interview who:
- Work in career areas that you are interested in
- Work in settings that you like
- Work in specific jobs or in specific organizations that appeal to you
- Share a common interest, enthusiasm, or involvement in some activity or lifestyle that appeals to you
- Get a name and phone number or e-mail address for individuals you would like to contact for an informational interview. If possible, find out more about these individuals though LinkedIn or a web search.
What Motivates Professionals to Grant Informational Interviews?
Many people enjoy sharing information about themselves and their jobs with people who are genuinely interested in listening and learning. Some professionals grant interviews because they believe in encouraging newcomers to their profession and others may be scoping our prospects for anticipated vacancies. It is common for professionals to network to exchange favors and information, so do not hesitate to contact people for an informational interview.
- Phone or email to explain your request and ask for an appointment (usually about 20 minutes)
- Introduce yourself, mentioning your mutual connection or referral source, if you have one. For instance, “I am Mary Careersearcher, a first year RIT student. I found your name in the RIT Professional Network data base and am very interested in learning more about the type of work that you do.”
- Schedule a 20-30 minute appointment, preferably in person, at their convenience.
- If it is not possible to meet in person, ask for an opportunity to speak by phone or Skype, or even to ask some questions by email.
To make the most of your time with the person you interview, be well prepared. Know your interests, skills, and how they related to field of the person you will interview. Read about the career field and organization that you are investigating. Use relevant websites and books to find out as much as you can. Use your interview time to gather information that is not readily available elsewhere.
Choose questions that are relevant to you and your situation, or create your own questions. Typically you would plan to ask no more than 10 questions in an interview
- Background: Tell me how you got started in this field. What educational background or related experiences might be helpful in entering this field?
- Work Environment: What are the daily duties of your job? What are the working conditions? What skills/abilities are utilized in your field?
- Challenges: What are the toughest issues you deal with at work? What challenges does the industry as a whole have? What is being done to solve these issues?
- Lifestyle: What obligation does your work put on you outside the work week? How much flexibility do you have in terms of dress, work hours, vacations?
- Rewards: What do you find most rewarding about your work?
- Salary: What is salary range for a new employee? What are other benefits or forms of compensation (e.g. bonuses, commissions, securities)?
- Potential and Promotion: How does one move from position to position? Do people normally move to another company/division/agency? What is your policy about promotions from within? How are employees evaluated?
- The Industry: What trends do you see for this industry and/or organization in the next 3 to 5 years?
- Advice: What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours? When the time comes, how would I go about finding a job in this field? What experience, paid or volunteer, would you recommend? What suggestions do you have to help make my resume more effective?
- Demand: What is the job outlook for this occupation? What other types of employers hire people in this line of work? Where are they located?
- Hiring Decision: What are the most important factors used to hire people in this field (education, past experience, personality, special skills)? Who makes the hiring decisions for your department?
- Job Market: How do people find out about job openings? Where are they advertised ? On the web, by word-of-mouth (who spreads the word?), by the personnel office?
- Referral to other sources of information: What professional organizations might have information about this career area? Can you name a relevant trade journal or magazine you would recommend I review regularly?
- Referral to others: Based on our conversation today, what other types of people do you believe I should talk to? Can you name a few of these people? May I have permission to use your name when I contact them?
- Do you have any other advice for me?
- Do not exceed your requested time, but be prepared to stay longer if the contact indicates a willingness to talk longer or to give you a tour of the workplace.
- Dress as if this were an actual job interview. First impressions matter.
- Get to you appointment a few minutes early and be courteous to everyone that you meet.
- Take the initiative in conducting the interview. Introduce yourself. Ask open ended questions which promote discussion and can’t be answered with one word.
- Once inside the organization, be very observant. What kind of working environment is present-dress, style, communication patterns, sense of humor, etc.? Is this a place you could envision working? If you are interested, could you set up a longer shadowing experience at this workplace?
- Send a thank you email expressing your appreciation to your contact for his/her time and interest. This should be sent within a day or two of your appointment.
- Evaluate your experience and the information that you gathered. What did you learn about the field? Are you more or less interested as a result of what you found out? Is there information that you still want to learn? How might you find that information? Are there things that you would improve upon or do differently in another interview?
- Follow-up with referrals for additional informational interviews. Hopefully this has been a very valuable experience and you have learned an important tool for networking and information gathering.
RIT alumni are ready and willing to help you. Visit the Alumni Association page for more information about ways to connect with alumni.
- Using yourRIT Alumni Network account, you can access RIT's Alumni Network Directory, which contains information on more than 90,000 community members. Membership inRIT's Alumni Network is exclusive and free to alumni and RIT seniors. To do to take advantage of all the community has to offer, all you need to dois proceed through the 4-step registration process to establish a User ID and Password. After registration, you will be able to update your address information, search for classmates, make new connections, and explore the additional community features. What are you waiting for? Register today! Visit the Alumni Relations Online registration at http://www.alumniconnections.com/rit/ The Directory allows you to search by geography, industry, program, year of graduation, position... to name a few.
- Visit the Alumni Relations Office Activities site at http://www.rit.edu/alumni/activities/ to find out what’s going on in your area. Regional programs are a great way to meet RIT alumni in your area.
- Contacting the RIT Regional Chapters in your part of the world—or in areas where industries of interest to you are concentrated—can also help you harness the network. Regional Chapter events are online at http://www.rit.edu/alumni/activities/
- Don't forget to mark your calendar for Brick City Festival / Reunion Weekend. Unique opportunities are available that weekend at RIT for alumni, families, and friends. For more information on reunions, visit Reunions http://www.rit.edu/alumni/reunions/ Returning to campus is a rewarding experience!
- College specific events along with affinity group activities are also sponsored by RIT. These happenings are online at Alumni Activities at http://www.rit.edu/alumni/activities/. Here you will discover what’s new with clubs and Greek organizations, athletic associations and events in your college.
- Even the opportunity to travel nationally or internationally with a group of people provides you the chance to network with fellow RIT alums. Check out the Alumni Travel Program RIT brings to you at https://www.rit.edu/alumni/benefits/travel.php
- Additionally, as an alumna, you have the advantage of choosing from a variety of volunteer opportunities and giving purposes. These are all ways you can improve your skills, meet new faces, and of course, contribute and have an enjoyable experience at the same time!
- August Group (TAG) http://www.augustgroup.org/
- Digital Rochester http://www.digitalrochester.com/
- Rochester Young Professionals http://r-y-p.org/
- Rochester Works http://www.rochesterworks.org/
Visit our Career Mentor page for complete information about our group of professionals that have volunteered to be contacted by students or alumni for advice, informational interviews or mentoring.
LinkedIn operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with millions members in over 200 countries and territories.You can find, be introduced to, and collaborate with qualified professionals that you need to work with to accomplish your goals. If you don't have a LinkedIn account, then you are missing out on a major way to make connections. Use the Find Jobs tab to uncover lots of opportunities! Watch this intro video -- it will help you get started.The Building Your Personal Brand video instuctions are great too.
If you are a current college students, download the new LinkedIn Students app today! Now available for RIT students on the App Store or through Google Play. Discover career paths, RIT alumni, connections, companies, jobs and more! You do not need a profile to start using it. (Please note that this app is meant for college students only, if you are not a student it will adversely effect your LinkedIn profile).
Your LinkedIn profile is your connection millions of professionals in the business world. Use it to show the world who you are. Use the LinkedIn Job Search Checklist to really maximize the power of this valuable job search tool.
One of the very best features is your ability to easily identify and connect with alumni in LinkedIn. Visit any University LinkedIn page and filter results from there. The Rochester Institute University page gives you the opportunity to gain career insights on over 100,000 alumni. Filter by where they live, where they work, what they do, what they studied, what they are skilled at and how you are connected. Can you see how this can help build your network of contacts that woudl be meaningful to you? It is a great tool to learn about career paths, or what companies hire RIT alumni, find a contact in a city you plan to move too -- the list can go on!
The following groups are pretty active and will be a good place to start making connections -- remember more people are joining everyday, groups are formed, and companies are using as a recruiting or promotional tool. Alumni are very willing to help other RIT alumni or students -- don't overlook the value of those groups. Search yourself for more -- join groups that make the most sense for you.
RIT Office of Career Services and Co-op LinkedIn Group Join our staff, students, experienced alumni and other companies active with RIT!
Official RIT Alumni Association & Subgroups of Colleges
RIT Alumni Group - Rochester Institute of Technology
RIT College of Imaging Arts and Sciences
RIT Wall Street Alumni
Saunders College Executive Board
Saunders College Alumni ( general, undergrad)
Saunders College MBA/MS alumni (graduate)
Saunders College EMBA alumni
Rochester Institute of Technology - College of Liberal Arts Alumni
Rochester Institute of Technology - College of Science Alumni
RIT Packaging Science Group
RIT CGD Group
Women for Hire Group
Indeed.com - Official job search group on LinkedIn for Indeed.com.
JobAngels - Non-profit job search network of professionals helping other professionals find job advice and opportunities.
Job-Hunt Help - Discussion group for job seekers sharing advice and leads and networking to help one another.
- If you have a LinkedIn profile, please keep it updated. If you want to know why, ask your friend to open his or her web browser and search your name. Chances are, unless you are omnipresent everywhere online or your name is very common like John Smith (not that I’ve ever met anyone with that name), your LinkedIn profile will appear in the top 5 search engine results. That’s why it should be updated.
- Fill your profile with colorful language, not drab resume-speak. There is a reason why the site is called LinkedIn, not ResumePlace. Verify the headline either is a mirror of your job title or a description of what you do. Change your headline as often as you’d like; mine currently states, Online media strategist and community manager for business and government, and Newburyport City Council candidate. Flesh out the summary and don’t be afraid it’s too long. Most summaries I see are too short. Which leads me to…
- Write in first person, not third. Unless you introduce yourself in third person at job interviews, cocktail hours, and networking mixers, keep your page about you in your words. Be transparent to who you are, not a third-person essay of what you’d like people to think you are.
- Upload the same photo you use elsewhere online. Ensure the picture is what you look like today, or within the past few months. Don’t use a picture that’s more than a year old. Again, think of the cocktail hour; unless you wear a mask to the event, show me who you are and what you look like.
- Join a group. Prove to me that you can connect to random people who share your beliefs. The more groups you join, the better. But don’t overdo it. You can also choose, when joining groups, whether they appear on your public page or not. If you look at my page, I am displaying a fraction of the groups in which I belong. Don’t display irrelevant groups to the rest of your profile.
- Ask and answer questions. Social media is about a dialogue; and the more questions you ask, the more frequently your connections will see the questions you ask in their streams. The more questions you answer, the more likely your answer will be marked “the best” and appear next to your name for future questions and answers. There are dozens of topics you can participate in, so go crazy. I was selected for having the best answers in selected questions on blogging, organizational development, and using LinkedIn.
- Don’t accept every connection request. This is a controversial topic, as some people prefer to use LinkedIn like a typical job recruiter and be connected to anyone and everyone; I am in the other camp. If we’ve met in person or communicated enough times online–if you’re someone I trust and respect and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to someone who asks for a referral, then I’ll connect with you. But if I don’t know who you are, I’ll archive your request, nicely reply no thanks, and ask you to connect with me elsewhere as a precursor. The caveat is if you’re seeking to hire me and indicate that in your introductory message, I’ll say yes.
- Don’t mirror your LinkedIn network with other social networks. Just because we’re friends on Facebook or mutually connected on Twitter doesn’t necessarily imply I will connect with you on LinkedIn. Point is, you can always decline. (Try not to click the “I Don’t Know” button which has negative consequences; just archive the request.)
- Recommend your connections. Whether someone is a friend, a colleague, a co-worker, a teacher or student, or any other connection to you, recommend the person. Some suggest you should recommend a new person every day, a strategy I sometimes commit for a few days and then forget to continue. You don’t have to work with someone to recommend him or her. I’ve recommended (and been recommended by) people whose blogs I respect, for instance. Just don’t add two sentences; make your recommendation prolific.
- Ask your connections to recommend you. Sometimes, people will recommend you if you recommend them first. Other times, they won’t. Either way, if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.
- Add applications to your profile. If you have a blog, there are applications to add recent posts. If you travel a lot and like to share where you go, or attend networking events, there are applications you may want to add to your profile. If like me, you have a Slideshare account for your presentations, link that.
- Most importantly, be a person, not a robot. If you’re not connected to someone on LinkedIn and would like to be connected, don’t accept the default invitation text that would arrive in my inbox like this:
I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
Tell me why you want to connect with me, for your assumption may be different than mine. Here is good example of a connection request:
I am a junior at Rochester Institute of Technology and found your profile in our LinkedIn Group. I admire your career in graphic design and hope to pursue a similar path. Would you be willing to connect with me and possibly offer some advice by email or phone? I would greatly appreciate your time!
May I ask you for a big favor? I noticed that you’re connected with Jane Doe, a social media manager at a non-profit organization. I am very interested in that as a potential career direction. Would you be willing to introduce us?
I realize this is a huge favor. If you don’t feel comfortable introducing us, I understand. But if you can introduce us, thank you!
And please let me if I can return the favor.
LinkedIn for Students Overview Video:
Best way to get to know LinkedIn and all it can do for you is to go directly to the source -- check out LinkedIn For Students! There you will find resources about the benefits of a LinkedIn profile and presence, and to help you get started.
Topics include Building a Great Student Profile, Using LinkedIn to Find a Job or Internship, How to Network on LinkedIn Tailoring Your LinkedIn Profile to Your Goals, How to Communicate Effectively on LinkedIn, Buliding Your Personal Professional Brand, Using the Alumni Tool to Explore Career Paths.
Top 5 Profile To-Do's video:
MentorVet (www.mentorvet.org),a new web-based program that matches student veterans on U.S. campuses with mentors from industry, launched this week. With support from a Boeing Company grant and deep involvement by Boeing Company volunteers as mentors, MentorVet is part of the White House's Joining Forces initiative (joiningforces.gov ) devoted to supporting U.S. veterans and their families as they transition to civilian life.