Value of Networking + Informational Interviewing Tips

I recently facilitated the ASTD Training Certificate Program sponsored by the ASTD Ft. Worth, TX chapter.  One of my participants was a gal named Eileen from California.  Eileen is transitioning from Sales Management in the Pharmaceutical industry in to training and development.  Eileen will be fabulous – she has excellent business acumen, in-depth industry experience, a natural energy and zest for learning, and great facilitation skills.  She was a joy to have in our session! As I mentioned, Eileen is transitioning into the workplace learning and perfromance/training and development profession.  She’s asking the right questions to gather the information and perspective she needs to be successful.  Eileen just wrote me today with a networking update:
“… speaking of networking, I have just learned the valuable lesson of always getting your job search message out complete with your professional objective. Monday night while sitting around after playing a tennis match, the other members of the team asked about my class that I had taken through ASTD.   I raved on about the class and about you.   One of the players whom I don’t know very well sat listening intently and then asked a few more questions about what type of job I was looking to transition into.   I provided a recap of my past employment, my skills and my goals about breaking into the training and development industry. She then says to me, “You know, you should speak with my mother-in-law, she OWNS a training and development company” !!!    Amazing, huh?”
So Eileen is on the right track to make her transition successful!  She now has an informational interview set up with the owner of the training company.  Eileen asked me for suggestions on questions that she should not miss asking.  Below are some thoughts I shared.  Read on, and then let me know what powerful questions you recommend for information interviews?
  • What do you recommend I do to prepare for a position In your company/department should one become available?”  Take good notes, then if you are really interested in that company/department, start doing what they suggest!
  • What concerns would you have about hiring me?”  or some variation … the goal is to ferret out information that may be holding you back without you being aware of it.
  • Similarly, ask “if you had a position available, why would you hire me?” or some variation – try to discover what the person you are talking with sees as your strengths that you may not recognize (or to reinforce what you know to be true about yourself and to help them see it as well).
  • Be sure to find out about the types of clients they work with, the type of work they do … “Describe a typical day in your job for me.”  They likely won’t have a “typical” day, but you want to get a feel for the variety of activities and responsibilities in their work.  Of course, if you are talking to the owner of a company that has people/trainers working for them, you may want to modify to “a typical day for your trainers” or whichever position you are interested in.
  • It is always good to ask about the pleasures and frustrations they experience in their role/company.  This will help you be realistic about future positions you may land in.
  • I’d also recommend asking the person you are talking with to describe her perfect client, her company culture … all things to help you get a feel for if you’d want to work there or to help you narrow down the type of work you want to do and the type of environment in which to do it.
I hope these questions help Eileen. As I said, she is well on her way to a successful transition into my beloved profession. We all need a little help from our friends via networking, informational interviews, and thoughts on how to prepare. What tips do you have for informational interviews?
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