The #1 way to get in touch with successful people (if you are aspiring to become like them) is to conduct an informational interview.
You have conducted hundreds of informal info interviews already. In fact, every time you ask someone about their hobbies, work, or background (say, on a first date or a long flight sandwiched between two strangers), you are conducting a small info interview. You already know how to gather information and build relationships. The key here is to take that knowledge and apply it to a more professional setting.
The Basics of an Info Interview
First and foremost, an info interview requires that you interview a professional. Not necessarily someone in a suit at a corporate office. You simply need to interview someone who is successfully doing what you are trying to do. This should be a one-on-one meeting between you and the professional.
I am about to begin the MBA program at Brigham Young University. Quite a bit of legwork is required before I even start the program. For example, I need to identify the top 3 or 4 companies I want to work for. A Google search or a perusal of a company’s website only yields so much information (usually sugar coated or negatively skewed). It is impossible to get a good feel for a company‘s true culture, what the company expects from employees, or what a typical workday is like for a specific position without talking to someone who works for the company. So, I decided to conduct several info interviews.
LinkedIn is a great way to find potential interviewees. Look up specific companies and find individuals who have job titles or responsibilities you are interested in. Ask one of your contacts to introduce you or send a direct message to ask if they are willing to be interviewed. When you send a request, include the following:
1. Who you are (name, school/company, and location)
2. Why you would like to interview them (learn about their experience with x program/company/profession/position)
3. How much time you intend to take
4. Gratitude for their time
I reached out to several second-year MBA students who are currently interning at companies I am interested in. I used LinkedIn to send a message and ask if they would be willing to talk for 20 to 30 minutes about their experience in the MBA program and their internship. Each person I approached happily accepted my request. The list of companies I am interested in changed dramatically because of these info interviews. I crossed off several companies I thought were perfect for me and added companies I had never considered before.
A well executed Info Interview will grow your network and increase your chances for personal success. In my next post, I will talk about how to conduct an info interview, what you should say, and what you should not say. In the meantime, who will you invite to an info interview?