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How to Make Informational Interviewing Less Painful

Informational Interviewing, Networking, Connecting what ever word you want to use it is the bane of all career searchers existence.  Number one way to learn more about a career you are interested in: Informational Interview.   Number one way to find a job: Network. Building connections, talking to other people, reaching out–is HARD, it is challenging, it can be down right painful AND it has to be done.  If you are going to find a career that makes your heart sing–you need to do some research around that career.  And who has the research? People who are actually doing the job.
A few months ago I had a client, he had taken assessments, looked at his values, even taken a few classes at the local community college and he had narrowed his ideal career list down to 3 or 4 jobs.  He STILL needed more information before he knew what to pursue.  Each time I would talk to him about the power of informational interviews and each time he would agree with me, walk out excited and return with no new information.  Finally after 2 sessions of this cycle I said what is it about informational interviewing that scares you so  much.  And he looked at me and smiled and said “what if they think I am stupid, what if they say no, what if I get the information and I still don’t know’.  Understandable he didn’t want to reach out to anyone–his Fear Monger was kicking in.  So we took each of his reasons and talked through them one at a time.  Finally at the end of the session I said, “as much as it pains me to say it, at some point you just have to do it, you just have to face the fear and reach out”.  He laughed and agreed and we set some manageable goals of a couple ‘safe’ people he could reach out to over the next couple of weeks.
When he came into my office the next time, he had a giant smile on his face–not only had he successfully talked to the people we had planned for him too, he had talked to a few extra people recommended to him by the initial round of folks.  As he said triumphantly “people are really pretty nice”.
So you KNOW you NEED to network how do you go about doing it.
Face the fear monger:  Write down the messages that are playing over and over in your head.  You don’t need to explain them away or justify them, just be aware of how many there are.
Set a goal.  Make it small.  Tell yourself that you are going to contact 2 people a day or write 5 e-mails at a time.  Whatever is manageable to you.   Maybe you are going to start with the people you know already or who you know will be ‘nice’ and then move on to the people you don’t know.
Just do it.  As much as I hate to write the words–Just do it.  They are the truth, at some point you just have to do it.  You just have to call, e-mail, facebook, text the individual and say “hey, can we meet for coffee/lunch”
People are nice.  For the most part people are nice–they like to be of service, to help.  They also like it when people are interested in what they do for a living.  I have had countless people contact me to do informational interviews and I have been flattered by each one.  It is nice to know that someone thinks what I do is cool and wants to learn more about it.  I swear, if people have the time they will be happy to give it to you.
Be Prepared.  Although people are nice, people are also busy so make sure you have a list of questions prepared or a set of topics you want to discuss.  Make sure you have in  your own mind a set of goals you want to accomplish by the end of the meeting.  What is it you want to learn?  What do you want to leave knowing?
Be Curious.  Remember it is an interview–not a chance for you to share your life story.  This is the time for you to be curious about their life story and what they do in their job.  It is tempting (especially if you are looking for a job) to want to share your story but I promise you will get more bang for your time if you let them do the talking.
Have fun.  Bottom line this is suppose to be fun–the more we learn about and from other people the more rich our own lives will become.  Remember to relax and enjoy yourself.  It is all part of the process of figuring out how to work and live happier!!

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