Posted: January 10th, 2014
Informational interviewing enables students to connect with professionals and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to practice in various settings and substantive areas. Since networking is an important part of obtaining a public service job, one must conduct a successful search in order to seek out informational interviews that will open up one of the best avenues for such networking. Here are five tips that will aide in your informational interviews and job search:
1. Timing is everything. You don’t start an assignment without researching. The same goes for reaching out to an attorney for an informational interview. By doing your homework ahead of time, you will able to find a more convenient time to talk to your potential interviewer which will also help develop a more meaningful conversation during the interview. Although there is no way to know an individual attorney’s schedule, there is a way to gauge when a particular office will be busier. For example, asking a legislative attorney to meet right before a legislative session is not considerate of the demands on that attorney’s time. Ask you career counselor for advice on timing if you’re not certain.
2. Develop a professional network. Think job fairs, alumni connections, and bar associations. Due the fact that many public interest organizations and agencies have a small or limited amount of staff members, they are until to travel directly to specific schools. However, many organizations and agencies participate in a variety of career fairs to meet students. This is the organization’s chance to get the word out to students about their work and values as well as what qualities they are looking for in students and attorneys. You can further connect with these folks by attending local and regional job fairs, bar association meetings, and other legal events so that their network is complete with a firm foundation of diverse contacts. And don’t overlook alumni connections. Logging onto WIN and conducting a search can put you in touch with Wake Forest Law Alumni who know the ropes and many connections. You’re your base network is established, you will be able to reach out within that network and locate contacts for informational interviews.
3. Preparation is vital. You’ve heard it before – you only have one chance to make a good impression. And this goes without saying for informational interviews and networking in general. Fewer things are more likely to set the wrong tone than not preparing for a meeting. In order to be in the best shape possible for a meeting, be sure you are cruising over an attorney’s or organization’s website in its entirety. Check articles written by employers or attorneys by searching online databases so you know as much as you can about the company or ask your regular contacts such as career counselors, mentors, professors, and prior employers. Once you are in the meeting you will need something to talk about, right? Take the time to prepare a list of relevant questions before the meeting and always bring several copies of your résumé. Please note, the résumé should only be given to the attorney upon request.
4. Be professional. This doesn’t mean be stuffy, but a critical element of a successful informational interview are the simple points – how to dress, timeliness, and courtesy. If you are not sure what to wear to any type of event, including informational interviews, it’s always best to err on the side of being formal. So make sure your suits are pressed! And don’t forget – to be early is to be on time. Arrive for an informational interview 10 to 15 minutes early. Check routes, traffic, and parking availability ahead of time. Once there, greet your contact with a firm handshake and make sure you are maintaining eye contact throughout the conversation. Last but not least, keep an eye on the time and length of the meeting so that you are sensitive to the fact that your contact has busy schedule. Don’t overstay your welcome!
5. Cultivate and grow. Informational interviews are a great way to learn about someone else’s interests and work. Period. It is not a way to secure an immediate job. These interviews are one of the best ways to also expand your professional network, gain valuable insights, and more importantly, be the beginning of a relationship that you should cultivate. Cultivation of the relationship should begin immediately after the informational interview. Thank your contact when you leave the interview and again within two days by sending a hand-written thank you note directly to them. Having good manners and an appreciation of a busy attorney’s time will go a long way toward leaving a positive impression and promoting a continuing relationship. Then, at some point in the future when an article or publication crosses your path that you think might be of interest to the person with whom you interviewed, email it with a short note letting them know you were thinking of them. This will offer the other person access to information that he or she might not have otherwise come across and you will definitely stay in their mind in the future, especially as job openings surface.
A job search takes confidence, preparation, and keeping the right frame of mind. A significant asset is to maintain an open and professional relationship with mentors you have found through informational interviews. Be sure you are keeping these important tips in mind as you venture out to meetings, functions, and parties throughout the year. This knowledge will ensure a successful start to new, professional relationships whenever you meet a new connection!