So the end of your life as a college student is rapidly approaching, and people are starting to ask the dreaded questionâ€¦what are your plans after graduation?
I recently went to a dinner with a group of soon-to-be college grads, and I was surprised by how many of them have never taken advantage of informational interviews. Before you start freaking out that you donâ€™t know where youâ€™ll be in a month, consider setting up some informational interviews to build relationships and get advice directly from people in your business of interest. This may have been the single-most valuable resource to me when I was a college student. Itâ€™s amazing how many people will take the time to offer up their great advice if you only ask.
Donâ€™t know where to start? How about here:
1. Make a list.
Write down the companies that you would love to work for. Make sure you do your research so you really know the companies before you start reaching out and asking to set up the informational interviews.
2. Reach out.
When you are ready to reach out, one option I recommend is checking with a career counselor to see if you can get in touch with alumni from your university. (Who doesnâ€™t want to help one of their own?)
Not in college anymore? Another option is to search for the company name on LinkedIn
â€”this is a great resource because you can browse through titles and find the person who is most relevant to your interests, then send a message to that person directly through LinkedIn
3. Donâ€™t get discouraged.
Be aware that not everyone will get back to you. Sometimes professionals just get so caught up in their work that these things slip by. Still, theyâ€™ve all been in your shoes at one point, and most people would love to share what theyâ€™ve learned.
4. Plan your trip.
If these companies are in another city or state, you may have to invest in a trip. I know paying for travel on a college studentâ€™s budget is not ideal. Hereâ€™s one ideaâ€”when I went to New York City for a career conference my senior year, I convinced a few friends in my major to come alongâ€”we were able to split hotel and cab fares, which made it much more reasonable.
5. Dress appropriately.
This may not be an official job interview, but you want to make a good impression. You may have the opportunity to build a valuable relationship or mentor for the future.
6. Enjoy the conversation.
When I used to go to informational interviews, I usually started by asking for a personâ€™s story.
â€œWhat do you do and how did you get to where you are today?â€ will usually kick start a great conversation.
7. Send a thank you.
Follow up with a thank you to let them know you really appreciate the time they have taken to talk with you. Itâ€™s always nice if you can point out a few of the points you took away from the conversation.