What You Should Know About Informational Interviews

The tips I'm providing you this month are tips that I provide to friends and coaching clients alike, and they are the most often ignored. Why? Because they're hard work. Because they require stepping outside your comfort zone. Because it's easier to do what everyone else is doing and feed applications into websites for companies where you know no one and no one knows you.

I didn't learn the power of informational interviews until I signed up for Ramit Sethi's expensive-but-totally-worth-it Find Your Dream Job course. We were assigned to do what he calls "natural networking," or setting up informational interviews, and I'll admit that I would have never done it if it weren't given to me as an assignment. But, dutiful student that I am, I followed the steps we were given. I was amazed when not only was it really easy, but it also opened up many doors for me and gave me incredible guidance in my job search.

Conventional wisdom will tell you that if you contact someone you've never met before out of the blue, they'll think you're weird and ignore you. But Ramit's team systematically tested these assumptions and found that, to the contrary, people love talking about themselves, they love being looked upon as an expert, and they love the opportunity to mentor someone younger and less experienced than themselves.

This is what I've found to be true as well. Between my time in Chicago and my move to Portland, I've cold-contacted over a dozen people about doing informational interviews. Out of these, only one person never responded, while the rest happily accepted my invitation and took time out of their day to call or meet with me and tell me about their job and their company. No one was mean or got mad at me for contacting them.

What this means is that you have a straightforward, highly successful way of making contacts in your field, getting insider information about a job or company, and potentially getting your foot in the door for a position. And you have a major edge over all the people who are too scared or too lazy to follow these simple steps. Isn't that reason enough to try it out?