Networking Your Way Through Your Job Search

Posted by | September 19, 2012 | Job Search, Networking

In your job search, leverage your network for informational interviews to scout out companies and new industries.

Networking during your job search can involve a variety of activities, and one critical technique that canpay big dividends is the informational

Networking and your job search over coffee

Networking over coffee.

interview. The informational interview allows you to collect information on an industry or a company rather than directly seeking employment. If you want to enter the technical communications field, the informational interview gives you the opportunity to learn more about the key industry experts, types of jobs, salary, key locations and the companies. At the same time you’ll sharpen the interview skills you’ll need to tackle those subject matter experts after you land the job.

You can expand your network with an informational interview, no matter what stage your in on your  job search. It gives you a chance to share your background and skills set without the pressure of trying to “land a job”. And you may  even have a chance to help your contact with a dilemma they may be having!

Setting Up the Informational Interview Process

Like other phases of your job search, setting up an informational interview starts with identifying the industry (technical communication), the company, and the role you would like to understand more about.  For example, you may be a technical writer working on user manuals, but  want to transition to working in a role where you can do instructional design, usability or training.

When you have an industry, company and role identified, you’re ready to start taking advantage of your networks. There are two types of networks you can access in your job search: professional and personal.

Professional Network

You have contact with all sorts of professionals  every day in your current technical communication job, and now is the time to capitalize on those contacts and expand your professional network to the areas you want to get into.

Brainstorm about those people who you would be interested in meeting for coffee, lunch or a drink after work.  Odds are that there are quite a few, so it is good idea to track your networking activities by creating your own spreadsheet detailing name, job title, contact details, company, when you made reached out, when you plan to follow up and anything else you would like to track.

Choose your method of making contact carefully. You have worked with these individuals, so you  should have a pretty good idea of how they like to interact: some people are good at responding to email, others by phone, and some you can’t seem attract a response  unless you’re standing right in front of them.  The goal is to grab their attention,  so customize your contact methods to secure your opportunity for the informational interview.

As a technical writer, you will probably cross paths with people who work as instructional designers, usability experts, analysts and trainers.  Reach out to them and find out if they would be interested in chatting about their company and the specific industry they work in.  Let them know you’re aware their time is valuable.  If they respond about how busy they are, suggest having a brief conversation over the phone, by Google+, IM or you could email them your questions. Accomodate their styles and their schedules by customizing the informational interview during your job search.

Don’t limit yourself to coworkers or acquaintances made during professional meetings. Is  there is someone who is a leader within the industry whose brain you’d like to pick? Why not reach out to them?   LinkedIn is a great networking source, and you request an introduction through a common contact, send them an InMail, or send them a direct connection request. For example if you’re interested in becoming a content strategist, you could introduce yourself to one via LinkedIn and request a few minutes to learn about the industry.

Personal Network

Family, friends and friends of friends have the potential to be great resources when you hunt for more about an industry or company!

Start by asking them who they know who works at that company, or who works in the industry with the job title you want to learn about. Our personal networks are full of people from all kinds of industry, and their networks just might have some contacts  in the technical communication. You won’t know until you ask them. Keep in mind that when you ask for an introduction, you should assure that  family member or friend you are just looking to undertake an informational interview, nothing more.

Take a similar approach to organizing the informational interview as your professional network with a decrease of sensitivity as these are personal contacts and they should be handled with the utmost care. You don’t want to frustrate your friend or family member by being ungrateful for their introduction and help.

Utilize your professional and personal networks to gather data on the industry, company or role you are interested in. Remember, during something as important as your job search, there is no such thing as a wasted conversation. You can learn about something you are interested in and move yourself further along towards landing that new job.

Coming Up: Preparing for the Informational Interview

Even though it’s more casual than the job interview, you still need to prepare for your informational interview.  You want to come across as technical communications professional and competent individual. The next post will outline how to prepare informational interview during your job search,  including figuring out what to ask, and the correct way to follow up after your conversation.

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