Considering a Job Pivot? Learn from Informational Interviews.
Have you decided to take your career in another direction? Make an industry or position change? It’s invigorating to take on new challenges when you can see how your current skills will transfer to new roles. But will your network understand and support your pivot? Do they recognize how your skills will help you succeed in your new dream job?
When I began my journey to become a career and personal brand coach, some of my connections didn’t understand the professional pivot. Realizing my plan wasn’t as clear to others as it was to me, I began a series of conversations within my network. I used these informational interviews to identify potential disconnects, educational opportunities, and messaging strategies. So, if your connections seem a bit lukewarm on your ideas, consider the research process as an opportunity to build credibility and construct a brand narrative that your network can get behind.
As you may know, the early stages of developing a marketing plan involve researching and answering customer objections. Do the same for yourself. Take the time to understand any disconnect in your messaging and use that information to build a cohesive personal brand that highlights your strengths and supports your candidacy.
Below you’ll find sample language for each kind of contact that you might reach out to via email, LinkedIn, or other professional networks. After reviewing their professional profile (on LinkedIn, etc.), use the information as the foundation for your approach and edit the template accordingly.
Please remember that informational interviews are not for pitching yourself for a job. Unless requested, you shouldn’t share your resume, but you must have prepared questions. It’s also essential to update your online professional profile so they can research you in advance of your meeting. You might get lucky and get an opportunity, but note that informational interviews are generally no-ask, information-gathering, informal sessions that should only take 20 to 30 minutes.
FOUNDATIONAL OUTREACH TEXT
After reviewing the professional profile of anyone you’re contacting, refine the following text to reach out to various contacts.
Hi Sarah –
[Known contact] Since we last talked, I’ve decided to look into a possible job pivot. I would…
[Former peer] We haven’t talked since we worked together at [Company]. I found you on LinkedIn and would…
[Cold contact] We haven’t been formally introduced. I found you on LinkedIn and would…
… appreciate a quick conversation about your career trajectory. This isn’t a pitch; I’m considering moving into [industry], and your guidance would be invaluable as I develop my career strategy. I have some questions prepared, so our conversation shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes. I’m happy to buy you a coffee, or we can talk by phone. Please let me know if you have time.
SAMPLE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Feel free to add, revise, or delete some of these foundational informational interview questions. For your purposes, it’s essential to tailor the questions to the level of position and industry you’re pursuing.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
What steps or education did you take to get where you are?
What does a typical day look like in your position?
What are the top three things needed to be successful in this field?
How does the future look for the industry? Are there critical skills needed going forward?
What things surprised or disappointed you throughout your career?
Are there any particular words of wisdom you can impart to someone new to the field?
Professional etiquette is essential as you go through the interview process. Please be sure to:
Confirm the appointment time and platform (phone, video, or in-person) in advance
Have your questions and note-taking plan ready before starting your interview
Keep the dialog conversational in tone
Respect the interviewee’s time and manage the clock
Send a follow-up thank-you note
Connect with the interviewee on LinkedIn
Doing the research needed to understand how you fit into an industry can be daunting. Informational interview outreach is a numbers game. Recognize that you won’t hear back from everyone you contact and press forward. If you persevere, you’ll be rewarded with volumes of information that will help you in every step of your job pivot or search process.
As a certified career coach, Hillary guides extraordinary people and their personal brands. She’s a career solutionista that helps clients discover their unique worth to find new employment, pivot industries, or move toward cause-oriented work. When Hillary’s not busy coaching amazing people, she rides bikes, learns about wine, cooks for friends, and travels globally with her family. Find out more and sign up for her newsletter at www.careersolutionista.com.