Thursday, August 25, 2011

No Really...Informational Interviews

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of informational interviews, and then I had one.

And it was AWESOME. 

I feel like the woman I spoke with gave me everything I needed: confidence, encouragement, and a big ol' reality check.

We began our conversation trying to get to know a little bit more about each other, our goals, and our paths. One of the most important things we talked about was networking. She brought up a statistic that I've seen as well and talked about over here. Roughly 80% of new hires come from people's networks, not responding to a job post. This is really hard to stomach when you read about it on the internets because let's be honest, it's much easier to sit at home & respond to a job post than to get yourself out there! However, when you hear the statistic and you're in the process of networking (having an informational interview in my case) it doesn't seem so scary.

One important reality for me is that I am a closet introvert. I don't think that's how my friends would describe me but I am often terrified when meeting new people at a social event or conference or whatever. I'm no good at going up to people and selling myself, it scares me. Well one thing we talked about last night was changing my perception of networking. I was networking with her and it was fun! FUN! All you have to do is have a conversation with someone, not shmooz about and sell yourself. When you realize that networking isn't a chore and it's not negative, it makes that 80% statistic seem positive, not a hurdle.

Also, wouldn't you rather have a conversation with someone than write a cover letter? Absolutely.

Speaking of cover letters, she gave me a fantastic tip,
don't spend more than 20 minutes on a cover letter. "What!?", I responded, "How!??". Her response was so convincing ... Since so few hires come from cover letter response to a job posting, how much time should you really put into them? If they like your resume for this position or another, they'll call you. You're a professional, your time is worth more than a cover letter.


I think I knew all of this before. Deep down I knew I needed to stop writing so many cover letters, leave the confine of my apartment and comforts of my orange chair because that's what everyone says! But here's what made me finally listen: I was having an informational interview with someone in my field. She has the degree I have and has been through similar things; this made her words so much more meaningful because I knew they applied directly to me.

So that means you need to stop reading all the blogs (except mine!) and start talking to people who are doing what you're doing or what you want to do and LISTEN. People love to share their stories and be heard. I've also noticed that people are really willing to help right now so if you reach out to professionals (at your level and at management), people will respond and try to help you out!