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Networking and Research
Research and learning are a big part of your student journey, and they are also pivotal to your career journey. As you develop your career, you will need to do some research and take a few small risks, such as interacting with others or conducting information interviews. Networking, building connections, and learning about different careers and career paths can bolster your journey with confidence and knowledge. Focusing on a proactive strategy for career exploration can even lead you towards navigating the hiring process with more ease.
Talking to someone who does work you’re curious about is an effective way to learn more about that career path, organization, and industry. While the key objective is gathering insights and advice, the people you meet may also be your link to future opportunities.
Requesting an Information Interview
1. Fewer than 100 words
Keep it brief, include a line in the email letting them know you’re an SFU student or alumni, but they don’t need your life story! They should be able to view your entire email in a smartphone screen without scrolling.
2. No mention of jobs anywhere
Your email is not about requesting a job, as this can be off-putting to an employer and result in rejection. The request is about having a conversation to gain insights into a career path, you are looking for their advice and insights.
3. Connection goes first
Identify your connection to the person. Maybe you found them on LinkedIn? If they are an alumni of SFU, you belong to the same industry association, or you read an article they wrote.
4. Generalize your interest
It can be a good idea to express broad interest in their occupation or industry, rather than only jobs at their company. For example, saying you’re interested in ‘marketing careers at technology companies in BC’, rather than ‘marketing careers at their organization’ allows them to still help you even if they know their organization won’t be hiring anytime soon. They may also be more likely to provide referrals.
5. Maintain control of follow up
Recognize that this person may be very busy, but you are happy to work around their schedule, this shows you value their time. If they don’t respond, it’s a good idea to gently follow up with a reminder email to show your commitment. But only follow up once, and if you still don’t hear back, don't take it personally, there are always other people you can connect with.
6. How to follow up
If your contact responds within the first couple days, schedule a time for an information interview. However, if there is no response, Steve Dalton’s 3B7 Routine from "2-Hour Job Search" can help you determine when to give up and move on to the next employer. The 3B7 Routine is a tracking system: the “3” and “7” refer to the number of "B" business days.
- After you send your initial email set two reminders - for 3 and 7 days
- If you haven’t received a response after 3 days move on to the next employer on your list
- The 7 day reminder alerts you to follow up with your contact
The 3B7 Routine can help you stay on top of your job search by identifying those who are genuinely interested in helping you out (known as “Boosters”), and those you need to drop because they either never respond or just put off a time to meet you because they are uncomfortable saying "No". Focus your time and energy on the Boosters, and your time will be well spent!
How to Prepare for an Information Interview
Do some research
Research the person you will be speaking with, using tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter or searching their name online. Also learn as much as you can about their organization and industry.
During the interview
Be curious, enthusiastic and interested - first impressions are important! Listen carefully and take some notes.
Stick to the time you requested (20-30 minutes).
Before you leave, make sure to exchange contact information/business cards with your contact.
After the interview
Send a note or email thanking them for their time, and mention anything that was a highlight for you.
Connect on LinkedIn and let them know you followed up with the people they recommended. Keep your contact informed of your progress, and any significant milestones in your career, such as graduation or your first job.
Remember, your contacts aren’t just useful for their one-time advice - they may be your future advocates or mentors! Look for opportunities to give back, even if it's just sharing an interesting article. Networking is all about building those mutually beneficial relationships.