Informational Interviews: Part 1

Introduction
We’re going to talk about informational interviews, one of the most powerful tactics you can use to grow your business, or find, or create opportunities. This is the number one tactic I recommend to job seekers, but this tactic can be used in almost any situation where you want or need more of almost anything. Whether you’re looking for more projects or exciting opportunities for the team you manage, even more contacts. Informational interviews can be the most powerful tactic you use. Have you ever heard you need to network with people? I think informational interviews is the most effective way to network. I want to tell you how to make informational interviews work for you. In this course, you will learn tactics to really optimize networking with informational interviews. we talk about what to do before you go into an informational interview.

Determining Who to Meet With
When you think about who you should have these colleague conversations with there kind of isn’t a wrong answer. If you spend 20 or 30 minutes in a meeting with a quote unquote wrong person, you can still walk away having had a positive experience. Having said that, let’s get more strategic about who you might actively pursue for these meetings. I have a concept I simply call your space. People are in your space if they are in any or each of these three: your industry, your profession, or your target geography. You can have multiple industries, multiple professions, and multiple geographies that make up your space, but the more narrow you define your space, the more relevant the contacts should be. With this concept of space, industry, profession, and geography, let’s talk about a few categories of people you could strategically pursue. These aren’t in any order of importance. The order should be determined by you and your goals. The first category to seek out is power connectors, a term I got from Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone. Keith says power connectors are people who, by virtue of what they do for a living, have big networks and do a lot of networking. You only need a few power connectors in your network. The next category to strategically pursue is industry experts. These are people who might have written an industry specific book or speak at industry conferences. If they’re active in the industry, a lot of people would know them. Getting on their calendar might be a challenge, but they can be excellent contacts. I would also pursue potential employers or customers who could share opinions regarding needs you could fill, their industry perspective, and insights into other companies. They likely network with other potential bosses or customers you would want to talk to. Seek out peers and colleagues. Your peers and colleagues have perspectives and opinions about the industry and other target companies. They should be great referral sources. Another category to pursue is potential direct reports. These people might be a bit behind you in their careers, but can definitely give you great insights. They could also have interesting contacts to introduce you to. Be strategic about who you seek out to sit down with. If they’re in your space, they’re probably going to be good people to have a meeting with.

Finding People to Have Informational Interviews With
Now that you have an idea of who to have informational interviews with, where do you find them? Perhaps the best place you’ll find people for informational interviews is from your existing network. Go back to the last few companies where you’ve worked and ask past colleagues for introductions. These conversations can lead to excellent referrals. When I was in my job search, I learned that there were some very expensive databases that had professional and corporate information. Outplacement companies, the companies that might help you land your next job, give their clients access to those databases. I found out that we might get the same access through a local library account or through alumni services from our school. Ask around, and if you can get access, this can be an amazing source of leads. If you’re fresh out of school, talk to your professors, talk to classmates and ask who they think you should talk to. Even if you’ve been out of school for many years, that network might prove to be valuable today. You should be able to find plenty of people to talk to on LinkedIn. I love networking on LinkedIn because we can do it on our own schedule. LinkedIn allows you to easily research people and their backgrounds. Another tactic to find people is by researching target companies with the goal of looking for contacts. Once you find names and titles, go back to LinkedIn to see if they fit your criteria. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social tools can be good places to find people. Finally, don’t shy away from in-person face-to-face network meetings. These can include user groups, meet-ups, associations, and professional meetings. Go to these meetings to find people you should talk with. Consider approaching other attendees, as well as the person who puts the meeting on, and even the speakers. I know it can be uncomfortable and inconvenient to network face-to-face, but I’ve found value and meeting people in person. Whether you find people online or face-to-face, always be on the lookout for people you should talk with. What you can learn from others, the networks you can get introduced to, and the referrals you can get is just too good to pass up.

Asking for Introductions
Every worker and salesperson knows the value of getting an introduction. Instead of a cold contact, you become a warm and trusted referral. We need to ask for introductions. Instead of asking for a person’s contact information, I ask for an email introduction. I tell them that once they make the introduction, I’ll take it from there. This is so important. If someone tells me I should talk to one of their friends, I ask them to do the first outreach and make an introduction. If they won’t do an introduction, I ask if it’s OK to use their name. I might say I was talking to Jason Borne and he said I should talk to you. This can work well, but really, you should always ask if they will make the first introduction. When I prepare for speaking tours, I could reach out to owners of network groups and ask if I can speak at their events. Almost every time I do this without an introduction, I get rejected. In contrast, if I get an introduction from someone in my network, I almost always get to speak. I’ll go with a warm introduction every time.

Determining Who to Meet With
When you think about who you should have these colleague conversations with there kind of isn’t a wrong answer. If you spend 20 or 30 minutes in a meeting with a quote-unquote wrong person, you can still walk away having had a positive experience. Having said that, let’s get more strategic about who you might actively pursue these meetings. I have a concept I simply call your space. People are in your space if they are in any or each of these three: your industry, your profession, or your target geography. You can have multiple industries, multiple professions, and multiple geographies that make up your space, but the more narrow you define your space, the more relevant the contacts should be. With this concept of space, industry, profession, and geography, let’s talk about a few categories of people you could strategically pursue. These aren’t in any order of importance. The order should be determined by you and your goals. The first category to seek out is power connectors, a term I got from Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone. Keith says power connectors are people who, by virtue of what they do for a living, have big networks and do a lot of networking. You only need a few power connectors in your network. The next category to strategically pursue is industry experts. These are people who might have written an industry-specific book or speak at industry conferences. If they’re active in the industry, a lot of people would know them. Getting on their calendar might be a challenge, but they can be excellent contacts. I would also pursue potential employers or customers who could share opinions regarding needs you could fill, their industry perspective, and insights into other companies. They likely network with other potential bosses or customers you would want to talk to. Seek out, peers and colleagues. Your peers and colleagues have perspectives and opinions about the industry and other target companies. They should be great referral sources. Another category to pursue is potential direct reports. These people might be a bit behind you in their careers but can definitely give you great insights. They could also have interesting contacts to introduce you to. Be strategic about who you seek out to sit down with. If they’re in your space, they’re probably going to be good people to have a meeting with.