The truth is, you aren't looking for a job. You're seeking information. And let's agree to stop calling it an informational interview. It isn't an interview at all. It's a conversation. It's a meeting. The term interview frequently sends people running fast in the other direction. Only job seekers and career coaches use this term, and it reeks of, "hire me, I'm looking for a job."
Be clear and sincere. Your request for a conversation must be sincere and free of hidden agendas. You will not ask for a job, you won't even mention the word job during your conversation. To help you secure the meeting, make sure you're crystal clear in what types of questions and topics you plan on covering and your expectations. You can include a link to your LinkedIn profile and share your succinct value proposition. This works because it shows what value you provide, not what you need or want. For example, a value proposition may read like this: "Inspiring new business growth for solopreneurs by helping them target and engage with the right audience on social media platforms." Your value proposition is focused on others and speaks to the needs of potential employers. It describes the problem or problems you solve.
Tap your friends' friends. Your friends would like to help you, but they usually don't know how. Do the heavy lifting and research whom your friends know. Look on Facebook and LinkedIn to see who is in their network and ask your friends for an introduction. Remember to be clear and sincere, even when making this request of a friend. Explain exactly why his or her contact is of value to you in your quest for information. And by all means, make it easy for your him or her to refer your request along. When crafting your request, be sure to contain answers to the questions who and why you want the introduction.
Move beyond lurking on LinkedIn Groups. You have certainly noticed posted discussions on LinkedIn groups. Sometimes these discussions are questions, other times, they provide information. One way to begin a dialogue with someone you want to connect with is to read the posted discussion and ask a follow-up question relevant to what they shared. Generally, people who share information are open to conversations. Another way to approach someone in a group is to invite him or her to connect after you have carefully read his or her profile and have a reason to reach out. It may be the company he or she worked for is interesting to you. Perhaps he or she graduated from the same college or with a similar degree and you're interested in learning how he or she started his or her career.
Craft a winning request. Almost any message is better than the default message LinkedIn sends. Take one second and insert your own words to personalize your reason for wanting to connect. Luckily, your message is limited to 185 characters, so you are forced to keep it short and sweet. Arnie Fertig, career counselor, On Careers blogger and owner of JOBHUNTERCOACH, recommends including these three elements in your introduction:
1. How you know or found the person the person you're inviting. Convey something uniquely personal.
2. Explain why you want to link up with him or her.
3. Present your offer of reciprocity.
Keep the momentum. Once you've connected or met with someone, keep in touch. Serving as a conduit of information is one way you can maintain your relationships. Plan on sending him or her an interesting article or send congratulations along when you hear about his or her company's news at least once every quarter. You're nurturing your relationship and staying top of mind. It is the strength of your relationships that will help you learn about future opportunities and meet new contacts in your career field.
Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.