We all know that only a fraction of available jobs are ever advertised on Oregon job listing sites. But how do you tap this hidden job market in Portland and elsewhere? You need to talk to people, lots of people, especially those outside your existing network of friends, family and colleagues. Informational interviewing is a terrific way to do this as you look for jobs in Portland.
I’ve done hundreds of informational interviews over the years both as a job seeker and as an employer. Frankly, I learned most of my informational interviewing skills by trial and error early in my career. Here are six informational interview tips I wish I had when I started my very first job search.
1) Know why you’re there. The purpose of an informational interview is not to ask for a job. You’ve asked for the appointment in order to learn about a profession, introduce yourself, uncover opportunities, and grow your network.
2) Be clear about what you want. Sometimes job seekers tell me they can’t rule out any possibility. “I don’t want to limit my choices,” they say. However, if you don’t have a goal, (i.e., “I’m exploring entry-level opportunities with digital marketing firms here in Oregon”), you make it impossible for people to help you.
3) Make an ask. The people you see expect you to ask for help. Here are the two requests I always make as a job seeker and I expect to hear as an employer:
Have you heard of any current or upcoming opportunities that match my goals and skills?
Can you recommend two or three other people that I could talk with about our field?
4) Send a thank you note. Yes, I’ve written before about the importance of thank you notes, but I can’t emphasize it enough. You need to do this within 24 hours of the meeting. It’s not just good manners. It reinforces the positive impression you made and reminds people that you’re out there. Handwritten cards are nice, but email is acceptable, too. Just send the note.
5) Stay in touch. It’s smart – and expected – to check in occasionally with the people you meet. An easy way to do this is to send a quick email after you meet someone they recommended. I also suggest connecting via LinkedIn.
6) Tell people where you land. Once you find your job, write everyone you saw a final thank you note with the good news and your new contact information. The people who helped you will feel pride in your success. And every city – and especially Portland – is a small town. You will keep running into the same people in your field again and again in the years ahead.
Here are more informational interview tips from the helpful staff at the Careers Services Office at the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Service at Portland State University.
What informational interview tips have worked for you? Are there strategies you wish you had known at the start of your career?
Image used under Creative Commons from Flickr user alexanderdrachmann