Life Coaching Newsletter Archive

May 11, 2009

Lately, given the economy, many people are changing careers or considering a change. Full-time moms are returning to the workforce; folks that have been laid off are planning their next move; and walks of all life are contemplating new jobs and careers that might better suit their strengths, values and interests.

If you too are ready to figure out what’s next in your career, the below article leads you through an easy process to expand your professional network and uncover job leads that aren’t publicly posted. Also, if you’re a mom who’s looking for a new job or career or returning to the workforce after an extended leave, stay tuned for our upcoming teleconference: Power Communication Techniques for Moms in Career Transition.

With gratitude,
Amber


Five Crucial Steps Towards Engaged Employment

Lately, given the economy, many people are changing careers or considering a change. Full-time moms are returning to the workforce; folks that have been laid off are planning their next move; and walks of all life are contemplating new jobs and careers that might better suit their strengths, values and interests.

As the old saying goes and rings true, it really is “who you know, not what you know” that matters most. Currently, 70% of jobs are acquired through private connections (colleagues, friends/family, recruiters, etc.) and are never posted publicly (through online sites, want ads, etc.). Since fewer people know about these jobs, there’s less competition – always a benefit when job seeking.

So, what can you do to beef up your network?

One way to expand your private connections and get looped into more job opportunities is to set-up and conduct informational interviews. Informational interviews are different than job interviews in that you’re not applying for a job. Instead, you informally meet and talk with folks in a field or position that interests you to get an inside pulse on the ins and outs of this line of work. Most importantly, it’s a great way to get to know the players in your desired field and to determine in a low-pressure environment which path might be right for you.

Below are five simple steps for setting up and conducting informational interviews.

Step 1: Choose Your Contacts Wisely

The easiest way to determine who you should contact is to go through all of your contact lists – your email, PDA, phone book, etc. – and to make a list of everyone you know in your desired field or position. This includes family members, friends, colleagues, neighbors, community members, etc. If you find that you really don’t know anyone in your desired field, then look at who you know who knows someone in this field. If you find you don’t have any relevant connections, then conduct some online research. Take a look at organizations that interest you and try to find names and contact information for folks in the positions that appeal to you. Or do an online search on a specific career or field and see what names show up in the first two pages of your search engine. After you’ve searched under every rock and stone, put together a list of your top ten contacts.

Step 2: Make the Ask

Once you’ve selected your top ten contacts, think about how you want to approach these folks. The easiest way to set-up informational interviews is through a short email where you introduce yourself (or re-introduce yourself) and explain that you’re in career transition; finishing training; or interested in learning more about what your contact does and what advice s/he has about this field. Offer to take him/her to coffee so you can pick his/her brain for 20 minutes.

Step 3: Set the Stage

After you’ve set up your first informational interview, you’ll want to create a standard list of questions to ask during each meeting. Below are some questions that you might want to include:

  • How did you get into this line of work?
  • What’s a typical business day like for you?
  • What do you find challenging about your job?
  • What do you find fulfilling about your job?
  • What’s been the biggest surprise for you about your career?
  • Do you know anyone else in this field who I could talk with?

Step 4: It’s All About Them

When it comes time to meet with your contacts, simply ask the questions, sit back, relax and have fun. The beauty of informational interviews is that people love to talk about themselves. All you have to do is ask a few open-ended questions and let your contacts do the rest of the work. It’s a very low stress situation because it’s 80% about your contacts and only 20% about you. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Also, be sure to respect your contacts’ time by keeping the conversation to no longer than 20 minutes and by thanking them for their time. Since you’re not applying for a job, you can have your resume on hand, but only hand it over if they ask for it. And, keep in mind that the most important question is your closing question: “Do you know anyone else in this field who I could talk with?”

Step 5: Make a Lasting Impression

Be sure to send a hand-written thank you note to each contact you meet with, within a week of each meeting. Personal touches go a long way and you will stand out in your contacts’ mind the next time s/he comes across an opportunity, lead or new contact that might interest you.

Before you know it, you’ll have expanded your professional circle exponentially and the leaders in your desired field may even start to recognize your name. This will help you significantly in determining what next step is right for you and, eventually, in landing your next job.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amber Rosenberg

Amber is a life/career/executive/working mothers' coach with 20+ years experience helping high-achievers to create success that's balanced. She works with individual clients 1:1 and partners with corporations and government agencies to develop customized coaching programs to support their valued employees. Clients include Google, Adobe, US Dept. of Justice, Morgan Stanley, and Sonoma Dept. of Education.

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