80% of jobs are filled by word of mouth, and never advertised. Having a strong network is the best way to find jobs. Even when a position is advertised, a qualified candidate who has a recommendation often goes to the top of the list.
You already have a larger net work than you think. This can include friends, family, faculty, staff, co-workers and club or team members. You can increase your network by attending professional events or by doing an informational interview.
Attending Professional Events
At an event:
- Remember first impressions are important, be aware of both verbal and non-verbal communication
- Smile, make eye contact, listen actively and ask relevant questions
- Don’t be too passive or wait for someone to approach you
- Ask an easy question to get a conversation started such as “What brings you to this event?”
- Follow-up with people you meet after the event
- Ask for advice, not a job
- Turn off your phone
- Monopolizing someone’s time
- Being unprepared
- Being too passive or aggressive
- Dressing down
- Not being honest
- Treating your network like a short term relationship
Topics to avoid:
- Salary and other money matters
- Your health or the health of others
- Gossip or rumors
An informational interview is a conversation with someone who is working in an area of interest to you. In this type of interview, you are not trying to get a job, but rather trying to gather information and advice. It may feel awkward to make arrangements to speak with someone, however most people enjoy sharing information about their professional life and to give someone advice to with similar interests.
You should prepare for the interview by researching the field and making a list of questions you would like to ask. Be prepared to give a brief overview of your interests and direct the conversation although the interviewee should do most of the talking.
On the day of the interview, arrive on time (or a few minutes early) and dress professionally. Listen with interest and ask questions. It is acceptable to take notes during the interview. At the end of the interview thank the interviewee for their time and ask if it would be all right to contact them if you have further questions.
Follow up the interview by sending a thank-you note with-in a few days. Keep in touch with your new contact and let them know what you are doing. They may become an important part of your network.
General Informational Interview Questions
Questions should NOT be information you can find online. Ask personal questions, about their experiences.
- What is your typical workday?
- What parts of your job do you find most enjoyable/challenging?
- If you could start all over again, would you change your career path in any way? Why?
- What educational preparation would you recommend for someone who wants to advance in this field?
- How do most people enter this profession?