Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Holding an Informative Informational Interview

I’m Tamara Berkman, a 2010 communication graduate from CU. After finishing a yearlong public relations internship, I am looking for a full time public relations or marketing position. To help further my job search, my friend suggested I talk to her neighbor, Ruth, who runs her own communications firm. I’ve heard of informational interviews, but I wasn’t sure how talking to someone who has no job to offer would be helpful. I deciding that hearing about the communications field from someone who is already a part of it would help me continue professionally.  After talking to Ruth - and some of her peers - I received great job searching advice.
Here are some tips on how to use an informational interview to guide your career path:

1)     Ask how people got started in their field.  This was the most eye-opening question I asked. Some started as assistants, while others volunteered and interned to gain the skills they needed. It took many of them 2-3 years to get an entry-level job in the industry, but they persevered and are now in a job they love. After holding multiple internships and volunteer positions, this was far from what I wanted to hear, but it helped me realize that I am on the right track even if the destination is still distant.
2)     Ask for resume, cover letter and interviewing advice. Those in charge of hiring can tell you several things they see from candidates that make great impressions or discard them from a job. For example, coming in to an interview with a list of questions is much more acceptable than claiming you already know the ins and outs of the position and company. Having questions shows you’re interested in the company, not just the job.
3)     Ask what you can do now to find a job. No one I spoke to was hiring, but they all had suggestions on how I could use social media, job boards and local groups to help my search.  Many suggested  Andrew Hudson’s Job List, Colorado Non-Profit Association Job Board and the Denver/Boulder based LinkedIn groups’ discussion boards.
4)     Write a thank you note. Anyone willing to take time out of their day to talk you about job searching is doing you a favor and deserves a thank you. I hand wrote each thank you note, as it seemed more personal and required a bit more effort.  Knowing I was meeting with so many people in such a short time, I made it a point to always have a package of thank you notes and stamps close by. To leave the best impression possible I sent each letter out within a week of meeting - while our conversations were still fresh. If you need help on writing a thank you note here are some examples.
After meeting with multiple people in the communications field, I am certain that while this job search will not be easy, by taking advantage of any opportunity to do an informational interview, I can make many connections with those already working in areas that are of interest to me. Eventually, I know I will reach my ultimate goal of a full-time communication position.

For example, I reached out to my friend Alex who has been working in the communications field for a few years and asked if she knew of any good contacts. Alex got me in touch with Steve, her former boss at Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Over the summer Steve left CP+B to start his own communications firm, Sapka Communications. After our conversation, Steve offered me a part time job at Sapka Communication gathering press contacts, tracking media and managing social networks. This will be a great opportunity to learn from a communications veteran and expand my network more. Through experiences like this and my commitment to furthering professional connections, I know eventually I will reach my ultimate goal of a full-time communications position.
Career Services also offers assistance with informational interviews. Check out our Quick Tips here. Consider joining the University of Colorado Boulder Alumni LinkedIn group to network with a variety of professionals and conduct additional informational interviews.