On September 5, 2016, Mac Prichard was the featured guest on the Finance Career Launch podcast, a show for people aspiring to careers in the finance sector. Mac spoke with host, David Mariano, about How to Use Informational Interviews and Networking to Find the Best Jobs.
Topics covered in this episode include:
- The enormous benefits of informational interviews
- How to talk to people when you aren’t sure exactly what you want to do
- How to conduct an informational interview
- Making it easy for people to say ‘yes’
- How to approach networking events so it is less intimidating and overwhelming
- And more…
Finance Career Launch is a great podcast if you’re interested in a career in finance, banking, or wealth management; but David also shares insights that are applicable to professionals in nearly any field. We definitely encourage you to check it out!
Thank you for listening to Find Your Dream Job. If you like the show, please help us by rating and reviewing our podcast on iTunes. We appreciate your support!
Opening and closing music for Find Your Dream Job provided by Freddy Trujillo, www.freddytrujillo.com.
You May Also Like
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want and make a difference in life. I’m Jenna Forstrom, the Community Manager here at Mac’s List. On today’s bonus episode we’re sharing a podcast that Mac Prichard was on called Finance Career Launch with David Mariano.
In Finance Career Launch, you learn from real finance professionals and other subject matter experts as they discuss the dos and don’ts and everything else you need to get ahead. Here’s Mac on episode 91: “How to use informational interviews and networking to find the best jobs because they aren’t posted anywhere with Mac Prichard.”
Don’t wait to be picked. I’ve had the most success in my career and the most enjoyment when I’ve stepped forward, taken a risk and proposed doing something nobody asked me to do. When I’ve done that, and when I haven’t waited to be picked – sometimes, I get rejection, but more often than not, David – doors open and I go places; I get to do things I never would have gotten to do if I’d waited for, say, a posting to appear on a job board or my boss to come down the hall and say, “We’d like you to do this.”
Hey there, this is David Mariano. Happy Labor Day to those in the United States and welcome to episode 91 of Finance Career Launch, the show that helps you own your career. Whether you’re trying to advance to a new level or launch your finance career for the very first time, this podcast and the rest of your membership provide the training and support to help you develop, contribute and advance.
If you’re not yet a member, go ahead and register for no charge by visiting FinanceCareerLaunch.com and clicking that big blue button. When you do that, you’ll get instant access to the video series ‘The Seven Pillars of a Successful Career in Finance’ along with some other great stuff.
Sometimes it seems like there is this conspiracy and that the best jobs are hidden away for the select few. In fact, some statistics show that up to 80% of job opportunities are never posted anywhere. You will not find them anywhere: the internet, job boards, it doesn’t matter. The good news is: there isn’t a conspiracy, number one, that’s not true. With a good strategy you can position yourself to get these best jobs. You can put yourself in the running.
Our guest today is Mac Prichard. Mac owns and operates Prichard Communications, a public relations agency based in Portland, Oregon. He’s also the founder and publisher of Mac’s List, an online community where professionals find rewarding, interesting jobs and employers find the best possible candidates. Most recently Mac began hosting a great podcast called Find Your Dream Job. You can find that on iTunes and anywhere else you can find podcasts. Go check that out.
Mac and I in this conversation go deep into several practical strategies to help you position yourself for those best jobs. We talk about how to approach the informational interview – even if you’re not exactly sure what you want to do yet. I know that’s something that trips people up, but you don’t have to know that to approach informational interviews and be effective. We also talk about a few strategies for getting more out of networking events and industry association meetings.
There’s a lot of information in this conversation. If you’re trying to make a career or job change, get out a pen and paper, take some notes and get ready for this conversation with Mac Prichard.
Mac, if you could just start off describing how you founded Mac’s List in the first place. You have a communication background, you also have a communications company. I’d love to hear that story, how you got into the career space as well.
Absolutely. I’m based in Portland, Oregon, as your listeners know. I run two small businesses. One is a public relations company, Prichard Communications. We work with nonprofits and foundations, but I also have Mac’s List. Mac’s List was a side project, David, that took off. 15 years ago this summer, actually, I started a list with a few dozen names to keep in touch with colleagues in government. I’d just left a position as a spokesman for a public agency. I didn’t know that I would go back to state government, but you never know.
One way people like to hear from others is by sharing job postings. We all get job postings that cross our desk occasionally. I just started forwarding them to people in this list. As the years went by I began to hear from people who wanted to be on the list and then employers. I didn’t know who asked me to share job announcements with my list.
Fast forward over the course of a decade I had almost over 1,000 names and many of them I had no idea who they were. Maintaining the list had become a part time job. I was paying someone to do this. While I did it as a service, I had to cover my costs.
I sent a letter to employers saying that we’re going to start charging for postings. And the next day people started paying. What I found was we were saving employers time and money because they were getting better applicants and fewer of them because we had created an organic community by word of mouth.
That is the heart of Mac’s List and it’s grown now to 80,000 visitors a month. In addition to the job board we have other educational and training services for job seekers because so many people struggle with the nuts and bolts of finding work.
I agree. One thing you said there where the employers appreciated it because the candidates seemed to be more qualified. Why is that when they’re part of a community like Mac’s List?
It taps into a fundamental principle that you’re certainly well aware of. Employers hire people they know or people who are recommended to them by people they trust. When they’re ready to look for candidates they tap into their professional networks. Because Mac’s List has grown by word of mouth, it is a network; it is a community.
Employers who post on the Mac’s List job board benefit from that community because people who read it were referred there by a colleague, or a fellow student or a friend or a family member but it’s exactly the kind of network that employers love to tap when they’re filling vacancies.
One thing that I mentioned before we hit record, here, was that people, when they’re looking for a job, often they’re hoping that there’ll be a posting or there’ll be some advertisement looking for someone like them. Dig into that a little bit more. What you said about employers tend to access the people they know or tap their networks. If you’re a person looking for work and you might be really qualified how do you access that job market that seems hidden sometimes?
That’s a great question. Nobody knows for certain, but there are estimates out there that as many as 80% of all jobs are never posted on Mac’s List, Monster, Craigslist, any job board. There are 40,000 niche job boards in the United States. Most jobs don’t appear on those boards. Your challenge, when you’re looking for work, is how do you uncover those jobs, because perhaps as many as eight out of 10 are never going to surface publicly.
Here’s the good news: it’s something that you can do in a thoughtful, strategic way. There are three basic strategies. One is to do informational interviews. These are conversations that are focused and have a clear ask and help you introduce yourself, share your goals with a professional in your field or a colleague, and also give you an opportunity to ask them focused questions that can help you in your job search, as well as grow your network. One thing you should always do in an informational interview is ask for referrals to other people that you might talk to about your career goals or your job hunt.
The second thing you can do to crack that hidden job market, David, is to get involved in professional associations in your industry. Go to conferences, sign up for a committee, volunteer to man the registration desk at the annual awards for whatever field you might be in, whether it’s finance or elsewhere. As you do that, you’ll make connections, you’ll meet people, they’ll come to know, like, and trust you. That will help you grow your network, but also make connections so that people will think of you for positions when they open.
The third thing that you can do to crack the hidden job market is to network. Go to events. Don’t go with the idea that success means passed out 100 business cards, that spray and pray approach. It means making connections in a thoughtful way. Less is definitely more.
Above all, in addition to going to events and meeting other people, keep yourself open to helping others. If people ask you for an informational interview, or ask you for a professional advice, or to serve as a mentor – give your time in a thoughtful way. If you do that, I find that people who give, and this is certainly my story, if you give without any expectation you will be amazed what you get back in return.
My story mirrors yours and a lot of others. I agree with a lot of that. Going back to the informational interview. How do you approach that? What is the ask to get that? How important is it to share your goals – your intention – before having those conversations?
It’s really vitally important to know what you want to get from that conversation. Again, a good informational interview allows you to do three things. First, it allows you to introduce yourself, share your story, and share your goals. The second thing you can do is to ask focused questions. These could be… Perhaps you were trying to identify which financial institutions in your community are growing, or might be hiring, or who are the leaders – these questions can give you insights into where opportunities might be.
Or maybe have a set of questions that address concerns about your candidacy as you think about your next move and where you want to be. Because we all, David, we carry these objections around in our head: “I’m not going to get this job because I have seven years experience and they want ten, or too old, or I’m too young, or they want somebody who knows the bond market and my experience has been in stocks.”
You have an opportunity in informational interviews to take those objections and turn them into questions and say, “For my next opportunity I want to move into savings and loans institution, or a community bank, but my experience has been in insurance – how have you seen people make that transition? What steps have they taken to do that? What kind of objections are likely to be raised and how have you see people overcome them?”
You get insights into how to position yourself and make yourself an attractive candidate to employers from people who are expert, they’re leaders in your field.
The third thing you can do in an informational interview, again, you should always ask for suggestions about other people you can connect with. It may be that you walk into the meeting and you’ve looked at a person’s LinkedIn profile and you see that they’ve worked with someone at an institution where you’d like to get an informational interview or begin to meet people.
It’s a legitimate thing to say, “I see that you’re connected with Mary Smith. Would you do an introduction or would it be okay if I reached out to her and mentioned your name. I’d like to have a conversation with her about that institution?”
If you do those three things in an informational interview, introduce yourself, share your story, get insights into either your field or things that can improve your candidacy, and grow your network by asking for contacts, that’s a success. Here’s the deal, David. You can do that in 20 minutes.
People, again, we don’t learn how to look for work and in college in high school, we learn it by trial and error, many of us. I certainly did. They’re not quite sure how to approach these conversations. Here’s the good news, like music, a language, any skill, job hunting can be learned. It just takes focus, practice and studying.
I agree. One thing that I’ve found, and I’m curious if you’ve had a similar experience, is that I feel like a lot of people want to help. They’re perfectly willing to help. When you can be very specific, as you mentioned, about your goals, “Here’s what I’m looking to do,” even a little bit about, “Here’s what I don’t want to do,” I feel like they’re so much more willing to be helpful, including suggesting people. Because when you can say, “Here’s what I think I want to do,” even if that person’s not in that field they can say, “You should talk to so and so.” I’ve had that experience. I assume you have too.
Yeah. 25 years ago this summer I was living on the East Coast and I wanted to move to the Pacific northwest, Oregon. Over the course of seven months, by phone and through two visits – I was in Boston at the time – I probably talked to 100 people; this was pre-internet. I can count on one hand, David, the number of people who said no, and I think it was just one or two. Because as you say, people do want to help.
I will emphasize, though, that when you do informational interviews remember this: you asked for this meeting. It’s up to you to run the meeting in a polite, professional way. Be clear about what you want and don’t be afraid to push the conversation along. The person you’re meeting with, you’re right, wants to help. You need to make it easy for them to say, “Yes.” Be clear about what you want. When you do make it easy for people to say, “Yes,” whether it’s a request for contacts or specific questions, you will be amazed by their generosity.
Do you have any tips or things that have worked to make that ask because I feel like a lot of people are afraid to do that for one reason or another. They’re hesitant to even make that ask?
Yeah, I think you’re spot on there. It’s a common fear. I think it comes from just lack of experience in doing it. I do find that once people learn how to do informational interviews, and it usually takes a couple to get comfortable, it becomes much easier.
Know this when you walk into the room, people expect you to make that ask. They took the meeting because they want to be helpful. They’ve had all kinds of people sit across from them in the informational interviews and some people wander and it’s difficult to help them. The people who are focused and are specific, you get the, again, make it easy for that person to say, “Yes.” They expect you to make that request.
I want to go to networking because you mentioned that as an opportunity, a way to find these hidden jobs. You mentioned events. That’s another area where I feel like people, there are these wide ranging suggestions on how you attack events. There is the spray and pray approach. I’ve worked with people that that is, I swear that’s their goal, to empty the box of business cards.
Do they get good results?
I think they hand out a lot, but I don’t … They “know” a lot of people, in air quotes. What is the better approach, in your mind? I also want to ask it in the context of: a lot of people are also just uncomfortable in networking events – it is intimidating. I’ve found ways to get over it myself too, but I have to admit, when I walk into a room of 100 people and I only know maybe one or two or zero, it’s intimidating.
I think it begins with having a goal in mind for going to events and having a focus. Every field has its professional associations and they can niche down quite a bit. Think if you’re exploring opportunities in a field, identify the associations and conferences that interest you. Pick one or two. Try them out and go to events with the idea that quality trumps quantity. I think it’s much better to have a handful of conversations that have some meaning and allow you to make a real connection, than try to just collect a couple of dozen business cards.
Again, I think you want to be clear about what associations interest you, go, shop around, find organization that you think you might want to get involved with by going to their mixers. Try to make high quality connections and commit to going to those events once you find a group that interests you over the course of a year and begin to build professional relationships with individuals, but also think about getting involved in that group’s committees or perhaps even a Board.
Most associations that put on events are eager for volunteers. I’m a big believer in projects. Usually an association looks for someone to organize a monthly lunch or staff a registration table at a conference, things that have a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s a way of showing people what you can do and a way of connecting with people who are leaders in your field.
It’s also a kind of connection I think that is a higher quality than a conversation at a social event, which has value. If it’s a group that you want to be involved in over the long term, I think about volunteering and I think the quality of relationships will get even better.
Again, people hire people they know or recommended by people they trust. Here’s the good news, it can be a very weak connections. It can be a simple as a conversation or attending a couple of meetings together. You make a positive impression and people will think of you when opportunities open up.
Working side by side with someone, even at a small level has a big effect on the level of trust. You assume you have with that other person the level respect you have for their work. I agree with that.
I think you’re so right. Sometimes people hear the phrase hidden job market and they think there’s some conspiracy and jobs are hidden in drawers somewhere. Again, it’s human nature that’s at work here. People are more comfortable with others once they’ve had an experience with them. Recognize that, tap into it and make it part of your job hunting strategy and your career management plan too.
I don’t want to gloss over something you said a few minutes ago, when you talked about going to networking events you said something about over the course of a year. Dig into that a little bit, because I think there’s some benefit in doing something consistently, right?
There is. I happen to work in the communications world. In our city, there are four different professional associations for communicators. Each has their own niche. There’s the American Marketing Association. There’s the Public Relations Society of America, there’s the Advertising Federation and there’s the International Association of Business Communicators.
I’m certain in your listeners’ world, in finance, there are similar niche associations. You could go to all of those groups, but I think, as you shop around in the beginning, you’ll discover an organization that is closest to your career goals and professional interests.
Once you do, dig in, and make solid connections with the members and the leaders of that group and look for ways to do that. Again, we talked about volunteering, doing small projects, maybe even eventually serving as a leader of that organization by taking a Board seat or an officer’s role.
When you dive deep, it gives you a chance to build strong relationships. It’s not only gratifying personally and professionally, it will pay dividends during the course of your career. I’m sure many of your listeners who are further along in their career, have been involved in different groups at different times, but they remain in touch with the people that they’ve met though those activities. That continues to serve them well as they progress professionally.
It goes back to something you’ve said a few times about quality over quantity. It really is important I think to develop relationships over time and those do take time. You meet someone once, that’s okay, but where does it go from there?
You look for ways to maintain the relationship and there are basic things you should always do, like, once you have a meaningful connection with someone, connect with each other on LinkedIn, and look for ways to help each other. Again, we’ve talked about the value of going out and seeking informational interviews, but all of us have something to offer. Even if we’re just at the start of our career, we’ve got experiences and insights that are valuable to others. We should always try to make ourselves available to help others by serving as a mentor or making time for informational interviews for people who’ve requested them of us as well.
I’d like to switch gears a little bit. Because you’re in Portland, you have Mac’s List, which is a local, a regionally-focused job board and blog. Do you have anything to say to people who are relocating, because I do run across some of the listeners of this show that are looking to get to a different market or even a different job and they feel like they have to go somewhere else. Is there anything that you’ve helped people do that are looking to relocate? Because there are some nuances involved when you want to do that.
There are. Our audience for Mac’s List has actually grown nationally in the last year, David, because we have a podcast called Find Your Dream Job and ‘85% of our downloads come from out of state, outside of Oregon. I think the reason that’s happening is because the principles that we talk about around job hunting and career management are applicable anywhere.
We do get a lot of questions about moving to other cities, not only from people who are interested in coming to Portland, but are out of state and thinking about going to other markets. I think a couple of principles apply. You need to be clear about your goal and what kind of opportunities interest you. You need to identify the publicly posted sources for jobs and, in a new city, there are likely to be niche boards, not only organized by profession, but by geography – find them and look at them.
Think about how you spend your time, and this is true for any job seeker, whether you’re relocating to a new market or you just want to work across town. If up to 80% of all jobs are never posted publicly, how are you spending your time? For many people, the answer is 100% of their time goes to job boards. You really need to step away from the computer and tap into that, figure out ways to navigate that hidden job market and then cover those hidden jobs.
How do you do that remotely if, say, you’re in Ohio and you want to move to California? Have a clear goal, find the local niche job boards in your market and then identify the leaders in your field where your career goal lies and begin reaching out to them. You can do that now through Skype calls and you can do informational interviews remotely, but you should also think about making a job-hunting trip or two, if you have the budget and the time to do that.
Then sometimes people say, “Should I just move to a new market and look?” That’s really up to the individual. I see people who do that successfully – they’ve got savings in place; they can afford to support themselves for a few months while they look for a job. Another strategy I see people use is: they move to a new place but they take contracts or part time work from their current employer and they do that work remotely. It’s really up to the individual and their tolerance for risk.
I think that’s helpful. One other thing, reaction I get from people when I suggest going and talking to people is, “I’m not exactly sure what I want to do,” because if they’ve listened, they’ve heard the focus piece. It’s better when you can say, “Here’s what I want.” I’m curious of your opinion on this because I think it’s better to say, “Here are the couple things I’m thinking about,” and get the reaction and use those informational sessions to maybe understand the nuances between those two, three options so you can figure out what fits for you best as well.
You read my mind, David. I think that advice is exactly right. I’ve certainly struggled with this in my own career. I happen to be in my mid-50s, so I’ve had different interests over the years. When people say, “I’m not sure what I want to do, I don’t want to close up my options,” I push back and I ask them, “What’s on your list? What are the top three things that interest you?” – just as you suggested.
I encourage people to list those out and then start and identify people, experts or leaders in the fields for those three goals, and start having conversations with them. What I’ve found in my own experience and the people that I’ve worked with is they figure out pretty quickly that one, maybe even two of those goals, just aren’t right for them right now or it’s something that they’re as excited about. It’s usually one of the three that they get really excited about. That gives them energy and focus and drive. It starts by coming up with that short list.
Mac, you’ve been very generous with your time. I want to wrap up with one last question I like to ask most guests. Because a lot of the listeners here are learners, they’re listeners of podcasts, they’re also readers and so am I. So, selfishly, I like to ask this question, too, but what’s the book or resource that has influenced you the most over the course of your career? If you can point to one… or two; sometimes it’s hard to decide on the most influential book.
That’s a tough one. Because I’ve had … I’ve been working for 35 years and I’ve done different careers. I’ve worked in politics. I’ve worked in political communications and non-profits and now I’m running two small businesses. I guess if there’s one… He’s written a number of books, but I just love the work of Seth Godin. He has many big ideas, but the one that I especially identify with is Don’t Wait to Be Picked.
I’ve done a lot of things, I’ve had the most success in my career and I’ve had the most enjoyment when I’ve stepped forward, taken a risk and proposed doing something that nobody asked me to do. When I’ve done that and when I haven’t waited to be picked, sometimes I get rejection, but more often than not, David, doors open and I go places and I get to do things that I never would have gotten to do if I’d waited for, say, a posting to appear on a job board or my boss to come down the hall and say, “We’d like you to do this.” So, that would be my suggestion.
That’s a great one. Mac, can you remind people again where they can find you and remind them where they can find the podcast as well.
Thanks, David. Visit our website. It’s MacsList.org. Our podcast is called Find Your Dream Job. We publish every Wednesday morning. You can find it on the website or on iTunes. Our focus for our show is on the nuts and bolts of job hunting and career management across all fields.
Mac, thanks so much for being on the show.
It’s a pleasure, David. Thank you for having me.
Sign up for our Newsletter
Mac’s List is free! Subscribe using the form below to receive our weekly newsletter jam packed with job opportunities, volunteer positions, internships and events in Oregon.