Spoiler alert: I didn’t.
Not in the traditional sense at least.
But if you would allow me a humble brag this week, to veer away from my usual outward-facing style of blogging, I would like to take you through something I think I do pretty exceptionally well. It is my “designing my MBA” expertise if you will. And I found that the majority of my classmates have really benefitted from seeing my approach so I want to pass it on to whoever else may be reading this.
OK, let’s begin here. What are the desired outcomes of informational interviews? I can simplify what would probably be a long list into two buckets.
- Make a good impression on someone who you may want to hire you.
- Learn something about a potential job or industry that is of value to you (the often overlooked informational side of the interview.)
Why is this the most important and effective way to get jobs in America? Because bucket #1 allows people to be invested in you and #2 allows you to be invested in them. And it’s also, not this…
So, without further ado, my week of 10 informational interviews…
-I released a podcast I started in which I interviewed a different classmate every week. Yup, your classsmates. Do they fulfill both #1 and #2, at least in the long term? You bet they do. And podcasts also go out into the world, where potential employers hear your informational gathering, analytical, and listening skills.
-An email follow-up exchange with a couple of students on another campus that I had visited when considering where I wanted to go for my MBA, led to an offer to add me to an inter-campus collaboration conference call on design thinking, a topic I’m extremely interested in. That’s right, did you consider following up with students and staff you met at schools you weren’t accepted to/decided not to go to? That’s, I believe the industry technical term is.. a “baller move.”
-I listened to Learn, Educate, Discover. What a world we live in! There is a podcast that does the informational interviews FOR US! Their mission is literally:
Podcast with interviews of people from different professions. Learn about different careers, what each is all about and how to get in if you wanted to.
This one was titled “How I Got My First PM Job in 5 Weeks” with Nitin Julka, Group Product Manager @Linkedin. Which was based on…
–This post on LinkedIn. That’s right if you are more a reader than a listener, info interviews can happen that way too. You aren’t getting to “impress someone” but you are learning. But also… what happens when you do sit down with a Product Manager or someone at LinkedIn. It’s perhaps quite impressive if you can reference Nitin Julka and this post. It’s now in your “toolkit.”
I come to all my informational interviews with a little something in my pocket that clarifies that I’m out there gathering information outside of this. The great news is that often saying “I met so-and-so at so-and-so and they said” is an outcome of an informational interview that helps you make an impression in further informational interviews. In other words, they feed into each other. Don’t see them as happening in isolation – it’s a snowball rolling downhill.
-Meeting with a professor. Discussion about a topic I (and in this case, a couple of other students) want to learn more about. Note, how five “info interviews” in, none have been the traditional “hey person who works at company X who I know through person X, do you have half an hour to chat?”
-“Hey, person X who I know through person X”… finally, I do a thirty-minute video chat with an alumnus recommended by my career development staff (shout out, Elizabeth Moon), in the rooms at the Graduate School of Management set aside for these types of things. But here’s the unique element of this. I actually was notified earlier in the day that another informational interview scheduled for that time was going to have to be postponed, which allowed me to schedule this one and leads me too…
-A “postponed” info interview is an info interview unto itself. Or at least half of one. Did you learn something about the industry? No. But did you make a good impression if you are gracious…? Actually, you get a two-for-one deal here often. Not only are you gracious to the info interviewer, but you are gracious to their scheduler. Don’t think that matters? Have you never had a casual chat with your co-worker about how you liked the energy of the person who just came by the office? That matters too.
-I go to meet with a professor (in another department outside the business school by the way, which opens up a whole new world of potential resources for you) during his office hours and guess what? The student who has arrived at the same time I have, I graciously let him go first, and what do I overhear…? He’s an entrepreneur with really interesting ideas. I end up joining their conversation. Put yourself in the position and info interviews can happen at any time in any place.
-I go to San Francisco in the evening to attend “Inside The World of a Tech Entrepreneur”, hosted by WSJ+ (Wall Street Journal Plus). Check out their world-wide calendar. I find out about this event through a classmate. I am NOT a tech-interested person, but I am, on the other hand, NOT NOT at a tech-interested person so why the heck not? We have a fun road trip on the way there and back, so what’s to lose (OK it cost $ but other than that.) I end up asking a question to the panel about organizational culture, which I am very interested in and get a wonderfully complex answer. I go up to the panelist after and ask to LinkedIn connect.
I also want to say, because it’s just a lovely thing you can offer your classmates, if you DO have a networking instinct, I have found myself literally pushing my classmates forward to talk to people when they are confronting their own shyness in these situations. My classmate who I pushed, in this case, was beaming the rest of the night, having made a big breakthrough to find the courage to approach.
-I have another more traditional phone informational interview. A key note on this one – this person never replied to my original email. I reached out again two weeks later. THAT DOES WORK. Not every time, but a lot of it comes down to busy people sometimes miss or forget things. That makes them human. And, again, if you follow up, politely and empathetically, well it actually can cast you in an even more worthy light than if you had just gotten the interview on the first try.
That’s ten, one bonus for good measure?
-I attend a club happy hour. My efforts to engage myself and my classmates have been noticed by a second-year-student. Without my asking, he tells me he has someone he would like me to meet and does an email-intro over the weekend. I respond with some dates for this week…
And the cycle starts all over again.