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Informational interviewing: Don’t be afraid to go straight to the top!

Informational interviewing: Don’t be afraid to go straight to the top!

When you one day make the decision to change jobs or careers, I would hope that it won’t just be a case of waking up one morning, handing in your resignation and then wondering how on earth you’re going to get that new job or make that next move in your career.

A great deal of research and investigation needs to take place well before you make an appointment with any recruiters or before you apply for any specific jobs – and often this will include informational interviewing.

The difference between an informational interview and a more traditional job interview is that you are there to seek advice, pick the brains of an expert or thought leader, ask for some leads and generally be pointed in the right direction as opposed to justifying why you’d be suitable for a specific role.

When I recently asked a client of mine (a lawyer desperate to leave the law and move into PR or communications) whom she could speak to in the industry, she quickly came up with a list of people she knew in middle management roles. This was certainly a good start. She then happened to mention how she’d recently read about the career success story of a particular woman running the communications team of one Australia’s largest organisations.

“So why don’t you pick up the phone and try to make an appointment to meet with her?” I asked.

“Oh, she’s way too senior”, she quickly replied.

Nonsense.

While they’d be perfectly happy inviting a complete stranger to join them on LinkedIn, too many people are afraid of actually picking up the phone and speaking to someone who might, in fact, be able to give them some invaluable advice, provide them with some great contacts or leads, or give them an in-depth insight into an organisation or industry.

Anyone in sales knows that the only way to build a solid business relationship is to meet with the key decision maker.

A job seeker should understand that not everyone holding a very senior role is scary or unapproachable and with a bit of notice can, for the most part, find a spare 20 – 30 minutes during which time you might just find yourself being given another contact who may ultimately offer you a job.

Family, friends or colleagues is always the easiest place to start. You’re in your comfort zone just having a casual discussion about what you hope to do next. But if you know someone is a regular writer for an industry blog or journal, or if you have seen someone speak at an industry event and you know they are a thought leader in their space, then nothing should be holding you back from reaching out to them directly for some guidance.

Informational interviewing can prove invaluable, and for the cost of a soy latté, chai tea or perhaps a skim flat white, it might just be the best investment you can possibly make in your preparation and research for your next career step.

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