You have probably heard of an Informational Interview before, but you probably don’t know how it works or how to even get started!

If you have heard of it, you can skip to paragraph 3. If you have actually completed an informational interview with a potential employer you are interested in, please stop by my office in building BA2, Suite 101 and let me give you a high five because you ROCK. If this is the first time you’ve heard of an informational interview, let me tell you a little about this networking gem and how it will help you land your dream job.

The informational interview is exactly what it sounds like – an opportunity for you to learn more about an organization you have a professional interest in. This sounds pretty harmless and easy, right? More often than not, students are nervous about reaching out to professionals because they are shy, nervous they won’t get a response, they don’t want to bother an employer, etc. Well, you know what? We miss 100% of the shots we don’t take, so let’s get out there and start taking some shots and making some connections!  

Now that I’ve boosted your confidence – let’s talk about the most important part of the informational interview – the person you reach out to. You probably don’t want to reach out to the President of Disney World if you’re interested in their Marketing internship – you might be shooting for the moon on that one. You need a strategic, researched “touch point plan”. Here’s how you do it:

Before I even start, use LinkedIN. Use LinkedIN. Use LinkedIN. If you don’t have a LinkedIN account, go make one now. It’s ok, you can leave this page to do it, you won’t hurt my feelings – while you’re there, make sure you follow “UCF College of Business Office of Professional Development” {shameless plug}. Ok do you have an account now? Good.

First of all, USE YOUR RESOURCES! You are a UCF student. There are thousands of UCF alumni out there, waiting for you to reach out to them. Do you know how much a college alumnae LOVES to talk about how successful they are and what got them to where they are today? They will go into the whole, “Back in my day, we didn’t even have LinkedIN! I had to print copies of my resume and send them out by actual mail! Actual mail, can you believe that?! You kids have it so easy today!”. But seriously – UCF alumni will be your best bet. Target a company you are interested in learning more about, and then search for UCF alumni who currently work at that company. For example – if you’re interested in working for Darden, go to LinkedIN and search “Darden UCF”. I know, that sounds simple but it works! The first person that popped up was a manager at Darden who was a student ambassador at UCF. What a perfect opportunity for you to message them – “Mr. Smith, my name is ___ and I am currently a College of Business student at UCF. I saw that we have that in common, and I hope you don’t mind me reaching out to you. I am very interested in joining Darden when I graduate – I would love advice from someone like yourself, whose background is very similar to mine. Would you be available this week to meet with me over coffee?” BOOM your first informational is interview scheduled.

What if you go to LinkedIN though and you don’t find a UCF alumni that works there? Don’t fret. You have to work a little bit harder but you can still find the perfect person to meet. Let’s say you want to learn more about what Marketing professionals do in the hotel industry. So let’s search for “Marriott marketing Orlando”. The first 5 people that came up are all Managers or above. Look at their profiles and experience, and also see if you have any common connections (another great part of LinkedIN). Ask to connect with them, and then email them to see if you can meet with them. Use the verbiage above, but change it around slightly since this time they are not a UCF alum.

In my previous career as a Recruiter, I was happy to meet with anyone who asked (this is the warm and fuzzy side of me coming out – I love to help people.) When I used to work in Professional Sports, I had a college graduate reach out to me with so much energy and enthusiasm about working in the sports industry. We spoke for a couple minutes over the phone and I could hear her excitement and interest. She had done her research on the company and on me. I was so impressed with her that I passed her information to our Premium Services department. They agreed to interview her, and the rest is history – she has been in her full time role for the past two years and is loving every minute of it.

Last but not least, use your own network you already have. Who do you know that works for a company or industry you’re interested in? Friends? Family? Friends of friends? Friends of your family? You’d be surprised who you already know! Sit down, write it all out, and start your research. Being able to drop a couple names makes setting up an appointment easier. This is actually how I got my position here at UCF. I had a friend that had a ton of connections in Orlando, and I let him know I was looking to work with college students. He reached out to his close friend who worked at UCF (who I actually already knew as well!) and well, the rest is history. Once your friend or family member helps you get the job, make sure you get them a nice gift to say thank you!

So what are you waiting for? Get out there, do your research, and start making connections!!

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By Lindsay Bridges
Career Coach – Accounting

 

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