Your Career Edge: Informational Interviews

DSC_0023With the majority of employees NOT satisfied with their career and company, an effective method to increase the likelihood of a good company culture connection can be found through informational interviews. Though few conduct such diligence, doing so will place you at the advantage.

Recently working on an assignment for Education Career Services, I illustrated the steps involved when a networker and jobseeker finds a company they’re interested in and wants to make a new connection with them for further networking purposes in the form of an informational interview.

I realized soon enough into the writing process that I had never really done that before and just as quickly tossed the thought to the side as a waste of time. After all, I have certainly acquired jobs through networking contacts in the past, and have several times in my younger job-seeking days cold-called companies to introduce myself and ask about any open positions.

Sometimes networking and doing just enough was enough to land a job, sometimes not, and most of the time the company simply did not match my expectations culturally or professionally. Looking to enhance the hits and eliminate the misses, the concept of informational interviews suddenly became clearer.

True enough, back then it was easier to get jobs since I was still quite young and tended to be content with lower-skilled jobs (and less pay) while in college. With a fast-forward nod, the need to progress has out-paced the college minimalist lifestyle and has been replaced with reality. Fueled by a progressive perspective, I have come to appreciate the value/benefit of career diligence.

With career in mind, here’s a six step plan to make a more consistent company connection:

1. Know your career interests and research them
To best prepare for a successful informational interview, first understand what types of work you are really interested in doing. Make a list of all the types of jobs you’ve always wondered about or had an itch to try. Don’t waste company time or your time either if you’re just shooting in the dark and don’t know what you want to do.

2. Know who you want to interview
It’s a good idea to start with people you know first, if for no other reason than practice. Try interviewing friends, relatives, students, co-workers, neighbors, etc.

Research companies of interest and write down a list of questions that come to you during your research. Use such resources as the internet, the library, career counseling centers at schools, and employment centers. One thing is for sure, you don’t want to go into an informational interview unprepared, so don’t rush this part.

3. Make a phone script for each call
Once you get a chance to talk to one person, you should politely ask if they may suggest someone else you could arrange to talk to another time. If the work interests you, you will want to get as many opinions as possible about the industry and job specifics, comparing notes later.

4. Interview your contacts using 20 interview pre-written questions

Though you have 20 questions at hand, select the ones most fitting – do not attempt to ask all 20 questions the person on the other end of the line may not have the time.

If you are meeting with the person, dress appropriately, arrive on time, and be polite and professional. Refer to your list of prepared questions, but be flexible enough in your conversation to allow for spontaneous discussions, should they arise.

It’s generally not recommended that you use a recording device during the informational interview. This can be a turn-off, and you don’t want to get started on the wrong foot. A notepad, however, is fine.

5. Track each interview with your action plan worksheet
Immediately after the informational interview, it is best to record your impressions and other important thoughts or information. Keep the information from each on a separate “action plan” worksheet as you may need those names and information later.

6. Write a thank you letter
Be honest, sincere, and clear with your words, and you can’t go wrong when sending a thank you letter. When possible, make sure it’s a handwritten thank you letter as these types of notes set you apart, are more personable than an email message, and will keep you in a contact’s memory.

Discussing the industry, job responsibilities, expectations, and culture with those in the field better prepares the seeker to create a match. For those interested in delving deeper into informational interviews as well as other career focused methods, visit our library of resources.

Article penned by Bret Hoveskeland
Education Career Services
Follow us on Twitter #dannyatecs
Blog: https://careerbreakout.wordpress.com
Education Career Services: www.edu-cs.com
West Orlando News Online, Event and Career Columnist: http://westorlandonews.com

 

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Career Strengths and Tips for the Highly Sensitive Person

For a long time I didn’t realize it, or perhaps denied it, but now it comes to me as no surprise that I think I’m one of them: A Highly Sensitive Person (an HSP). The highly sensitive personality trait affects about 15 to 20 percent of the general population, according to psychologist and researcher Elaine N. Aron, who broke new ground with research on the subject in her book The Highly Sensitive Person.

A former girlfriend, an HSP herself, once eloquently pointed out to me that the reason I seem to get overwhelmed with everything from romance to work and want nothing more than to simply go into hiding to recharge my batteries, is because I was an HSP. I disagreed. Nonsense, I thought. It sounded taboo.

I may be sensitive, sure, I’ve been told that all my life, even if I can take a joke or two at my own expense. But I’m not going to be classified under some silly pseudo-psychological label with just as silly an acronym to match.

I knew she was one, but I thought I was much different. Then she explained the personality type a little better and handed me a book titled Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person. I briefly flipped through its contents later and saw many comparisons to myself. The regular overstimulation, both physically and emotionally, to my social surroundings, as if I was too highly-tuned to external stimuli, over-sensitivity to noise, other people’s moods, time pressures, etc.

It started to click, but I still didn’t want to think of myself having to face all those challenges; at least not until I realized the strengths behind HSPs. HSP’s have amazing creative and emotional skills that they can use to their advantage in a career choice that naturally allows these strengths to bloom. They just have to find the ones and the companies that are going to view them for the talented, unique strengths they have to offer.

Let’s take a quick peek at four key areas of strength that can be translated into a happy, healthy life and career for all you fellow HSPs out there.

Creativity

HSP’s are known for high levels of creativity. Highly sensitive people are vividly aware of their surroundings. They process information more slowly but more thoroughly than the average person. Combined, these two characteristics often make them deeply creative. Writers, artists, interior designers, actors and musicians all draw on their senses to create their work, and then make their work as complete and expressive as possible by fixing their attention on the subtle details.

Empathy

An intuitive awareness of the feelings of others closely around them gives HSPs an innate talent for careers in counseling, spiritual leadership, therapy, interpreting and infant care. They tend to communicate carefully and gently, making them good at diplomacy, mental healthcare and educating special needs children.

Precision

HSPs are often well-suited to jobs that require data analysis, memorization or slow, careful work due to the nature of how they process information. In contrast to the skills that make them good artists, these skills involving precision and care can easily match HSPs to work in programming, market analysis, accounting or personal assistance.

Privacy

Micro management and busy environments can get more quickly overwhelming for highly sensitive people. They tend to be very meticulous and methodical, and they have a difficult time receiving criticism without getting upset. Because of these traits, highly sensitive people are often happy working at home, working individually or being self-employed. These career paths allow them to choose their own schedule, take their time processing information, be their own critics and structure their own environments.

With strengths like these, it’s not hard to see how much good highly sensitive people are capable of doing in the world and the workplace.

Article penned by Bret Hoveskeland
Writer/Editor with Education Career Services
Follow us on Twitter #dannyatecs
Blog: https://careerbreakout.wordpress.com
Education Career Services: www.edu-cs.com
West Orlando News Online, Event and Career Columnist: http://westorlandonews.com

LinkedIn: Are your students In or Out?

Office Back Area
Office Back Area

Registering and being an active part of the social digital media networking culture is to communicate with your connections. Otherwise, social media won’t have much of a point for you in the career networking world. Being active (or IN) is career critical when it comes to your LinkedIn profile. Being invisible (or OUT) automatically places you at a disadvantage as LinkedIn remains the #1 networking platform for professional networking.

If you are in the “out” group, take a few moments and reflect on the following tips to get you back on the track. For those within the “in” group, don’t skip a beat as new information could be as simple as tip #8.

1. Post regular updates
Be an active member of your networking community. To be part is to be part… in other words, don’t pretend to be active if you post once a month. When in doubt, a good rule of thumb to abide by is one post each day or two. Then again, don’t post just to post… make what you have to say industry specific and a benefit for your readers.

2. Visit your connections’ profiles.
Make an effort to visit your contacts’ profiles without relying on the “Anonymous LinkedIn User” feature so they can see your actual interest in them. Think about it, if someone was checking you out, wouldn’t you want to know who is interested? I thought so.

3. Utilize LinkedIn endorsements and recommendations.
Thoughtful recommendations will always trump a simple click of the mouse for an online endorsement.  Yet, Endorsements have a greater purpose than simply showing a contact you like their skills and expertise. At their basic root, they are another positive way to keep in contact with your connections, developing a sense of identity for all parties involved.

4. “Like” your contacts’ posts.
This is simple online etiquette, but don’t feel you have to go crazy about “liking” every single post you see from every single connection. Merely “liking” posts and status updates can get lazy too so don’t fall into a complacent consciousness.  Show your contacts you’re an expressive, thoughtful member of the LinkedIn community be leaving comments when you can to promote discussion.

5. Participate in regular discussions and comments.
Highlight in your unique (and relevant) “two cents” worth on any given contact’s discussion, or, better yet, initiate a conversation with a contact. This avenue can be a wonderful way to share ideas with established connections and potential connections.

6. Make time to read and comment on any connections’ blogs.
This is an effective way of creating synergy in the blogging community. Put in another way, if you were to post on a blog and get absolutely no readers, no comments, and no reactions, how would that affect your psychological state? Or, in the other situation, you notice a solid readership and dynamic discussions/comments, motivation becomes mountainous.

7. Further communicate through email use.
It doesn’t take a lot of time to send a contact a more personable private email but it could mean a great deal to the recipient. No longer is either party invisible… oh what a great feeling with potentially powerful results.

8. Congratulate your contacts on special occasions.
Go the extra mile and reach out to your connections when you see they hit a work-related anniversary, start a new job, or even just for celebrating a birthday. A little extra care goes a long way to keeping your contacts close and interested in your interests.

9. When convenient, meet in person.
The final step and goal of all this communication is to meet phone-to-phone or face-to-face. If your connection lives in a distant location, you may suggest getting together when you’ll be in their city or town. Plan to meet in a relaxed, social atmosphere such as a coffee shop, nice restaurant, or a personal networking event if your connection lives close by. Remember LinkedIn is not a hook-up site so keep all correspondence professional, courteous, and respectful.

LinkedIn: Are you in or out? Enough of the distractions, get out there and start communicating. Happy connections lead to happy careers!

Interested in securing cutting-edge career focused books, including how to write effective resume/cover letters, maximizing digital networking, and interview best practice approaches, visit www.edu-cs.com for a complete listing of available products and support.

If you have specific questions or career-related issues you would like responded to by our certified professional career coaches and writers, contact our staff directly: dhuffman@educationcareerservices.com.

Article penned by Bret Hoveskeland
Writer/Editor with Education Career Services
Follow us on Twitter #dannyatecs
Blog: https://careerbreakout.wordpress.com
Education Career Services: www.edu-cs.com
West Orlando News Online, Event and Career Columnist: http://westorlandonews.com