Experience has shown that the best source of information and direct job leads is your circle of friends and acquaintances. People you know will have their own circles of friends and acquaintances. Your network list should include contacts form the past, present, and those individuals you contact in the future.
Suggestions for developing your network contacts
- Your Christmas Card list.
- Classmates from high school and college.
- Alumni from high school and college.
- Relatives (brothers, sisters, in-laws, uncles, cousins).
- Fellow church members.
- Colleagues in civic associations, political groups, volunteer groups.
- Sports partners.
- Professional acquaintances (banker, lawyer, doctor, etc.).
- Former teachers.
- Members of professional associations.
- Responsible people you know through contacts.
- Families of friends.
- Other resource people your friends contact for you.
- Former employers or internship supervisors.
You need to keep building your network contacts. Add the names of people as you meet them. Never underestimate someone you know - they also have numerous contacts (i.e., policemen, bartenders, beauticians, cab and bus drivers, other people providing personal services, retailers, secretaries/receptionists, librarians, etc.).
Once you have developed your “contact network” you should begin informational interviewing.
Step 1 - Identify Contacts
You should identify contacts within your career interests. These individuals can be identified through your contact network or referrals from others.
Step 2 - Approach the Contacts
There are many different ways to approach your contacts to request an information interview: personal referral, walk-in, telephone call, or letter. The personal referral is the most successful approach. When talking to your contact you should:
- Mention the name of the person who referred you to the contact.
- Tell the individual you are trying to decide on a career,
- Ask to set up a convenient time for an interview. Only ask for 15-20 minutes of the contacts time (you will usually be given an hour).
Step 3 - Preparation
You can prepare yourself for you information interview in several ways:
- Research the occupation of the individual to be interviewed. For example, before interviewing a buyer, you should read information on that occupation and on the industry (e.g., retail, electronic) in general.
- Formulate specific questions to be asked during the information interview that will provide information that cannot be obtained through other sources. You should have a list ready for the interview.
- You should review your interests, skills and values so that you can share these characteristics with the person you are interviewing. You can then assess their relevance to the demands of the occupation or work environment of he interviewee.
Step 4 - The Information Interview
You should conduct yourself in a professional manner during the interview. You should regard each interview as a business appointment and conduct yourself with the principles of business etiquette in mind. Making a good first impression may be critical if you are to return at a later time as a job hunter. You will usually find the person being interviewed both informative and sympathetic to your concerns. During the interview you should:
- Immediately establish rapport with the interviewee and indicate an interest in his/her occupation or work setting.
- Ask prepared questions and any others that come to mind as a result of the discussion. You can take notes as the information is being given. However, do not permit note taking to interrupt the communication flow between the two of you. Make your notes brief and avoid recording information which has obviously been given to you in confidence.
- Request the names of three other persons to interview in the same occupation or similar work environment.
Step 5 - Follow-up
Within a week after the information interview, you should send a thank you note to the interviewee and record helpful information in a “career facts” notebook. Entries in this notebook might include the name, address, and phone number of each contact interviewed; a list of pertinent career information gathered from this individual; and, the names of additional referrals.
The following questions are listed as a guide to a comprehensive and orderly study of the occupation or work environment. Gathering this information is vital if you are able to determine whether the particular occupation or work environment is suitable to your own interests, needs, skills, abilities and values. After reading the questions, copy those which seem important to you personally and add your own questions to your list.
Informational Interview Questions
- What is the title of the person you are interviewing; does the job have other titles?
- What are the person’s responsibilities and what duties are performed on a typical day? Does s/he have a set schedule?
- What are the salary ranges for persons in this occupation (i.e., starting our, after five years, etc.)?
- What kinds of courses are most valuable to emphasize in order to gain the skills necessary for success n this field? Distinguish between courses that are desirable and courses that are indispensable.
- What kinds of work experience (paid or unpaid) would an employer look for in a job a applicant? How can a student obtain this work experience?
- What skills & abilities are most important acquire to be successful in this occupation (i.e., communication skills, analytical skills, numerical skills, etc.)?
- What are the main or most important characteristics a person should have to be successful in this field (i.e., a successful buyer might have to be outgoing, friendly, and good mingler with others, on time for appointments, etc.)?
- What kind of temperament do you think a person should possess in order to be successful in this occupation?
- What are the different work places in which people in this occupation may work (i.e., educational institutions, the business world, governmental agencies, etc.)?
- How can you determine whether you have the ability or potential ability to be successful in this field?
- What are the criteria on which your job performance is evaluated?
- Is there an on-the-job training program suggested or required for workers in this field?
- Is employment preference given to applicants within a certain range?
- Is this predominantly a male or female occupation? Is employment preference given to either sex? Is there evidence of differential treatment between men and women workers with respect to job duties, pay, and opportunities for advancement?
- What are the employment prospects in Minneapolis-St. Paul area and other cities for workers in this field? Where are the best employment prospects in a company like yours?
- What are some of the names of related occupations that might prove acceptable to a person who thought s/he might want to enter this field but who finds either him/herself or the occupation lacking something?
- What lifestyles are usually associated with this career (i.e., are there long and grueling hours, what income level is usually associated with this career, how much respect and prestige does the job command, how important is involvement in community affair, how does the career affect the worker's social life, leisure time, and family life?
- How many hours do you work?
- set schedule?
- are hours flexible?
- are hours irregular?
- is your situation typical?
- What sort of education do you have? Do you feel you education is relevant to what you are presently doing?
- How do you feel about the number of hours you work? Are you satisfied with your hours? Are your hours too long? Do you have enough leisure time?
- Do you enough recognition from your work?
- What do you like best or find most satisfying about this work? What do you perceive to be the major rewards of the job?
- What are the dissatisfying aspects of your work? What do you like least about your job? Is this typical of the field?
- What are the greatest pressures, strains, anxieties or frustrations in you work? What are the most frequently recurring problems?
- Are your services performed under conditions that are conducive to pleasant human relations?
- How much freedom do you have in determining how hard you work and what you do in the job.
- To what extent does this occupation provide the economic resources necessary for you to live the kind of life you want?
- What kinds of affiliations do you have in connection with the job?
- How do you see your relationship to the organization as a whole?
- How much independence is allowed in dress and personal appearance?
- How did you get into this job? Was it the kind of job you had planned on getting while you were in school? Who helped you plan or prepare for this field?
- What was your opinion of this kind of work before you got into it? Is your job different from what you expected?
- If you were to start over, would you choose the same kind of work? If not, what kind of work would you most like to do?
- Do you see this work as a lifelong occupation as a stepping stone to some other job or occupation? What are the opportunities for advancement on this job? in this field, or in this company or organization? To what positions? Is an advanced degree needed? In what field(s)?
- Is your job better or worse now than it was a few years ago? Why?
- What advice would you give to a young person coming into a job like yours?
- What is the main function of the business, industry, or organization?
- What is the general staff organization?
- How many levels and what kinds of jobs are represented?
- How many employers are there in the organization? How many males, females, and how many minorities? What is the company doing to achieve equal opportunity for women an minorities?
- What are some of the main concerns of management (i.e., productivity, equal employment, absenteeism, turnover, etc.)?
- How democratic or authoritarian is the organization? To what extent are the workers at all levels involved in decision-making?
- What are the communication patterns in the organization? What does morale appear to be like in the company?
- What incentives does the organization offer to encourage workers to acquire more training?
- How much input does the employee have on geographical location and relocation?
- What is the average age of top management?
After the Interview, Questions to ask yourself
- What is your reaction to the number of hours & type of schedule (amount of flexibility) of the worker?
- Will you try to obtain a similar kind of education as the worker? Why or why not?
- Do you think you would be satisfied/dissatisfied with the same things that the worker described?
- What is your reaction to the conditions (stress/anxieties) of this occupation?
- What is your reaction to the amount of freedom the worker has in determining how hard s/he works and what s/he does in the job?
- Describe any changes that have taken place in your opinion of the occupation as a result of he survey. What are the most important new facts and understandings that you have acquired? What misconceptions did you correct?
Networking and Informal Interviewing Bibliography
- Bolles, Richard N. What Color Is Your Parachute? Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 1982. Pgs. 133-161, 229-233.
- Crystal, John C. and Bolles, Richard N. Where Do I Go From Here With My Life? New York: Seaburey Press, 1974. Pgs. 36-40, 197-199.
- Figler, Howard. PATH: A Career Workbook for Liberal Arts Students. Cranston, R.I.: The Carroll Press, 1979. Pgs. 120-121.
- Figler, Howard. The Complete Job-Search Handbook. New York: Holt, Reinehart and Winston, 1979. Pgs. 120-130.
- Kleinman, Carol. Women's Networks. New York: Ballantine Books, 1980.
- Lathrop, Richard. Who's Hiring Who. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 1977. Pgs. 163-171.
- Welch, Mary Scott. Networking. New York: Werner Books, 1981.
- Welch, Mary Scott. Networking: A Great New Way for Women to Get Ahead. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1980.