When someone offers you an opportunity for an informational interview.
Or when someone asks if you can hold an informational interview as a favor to a friend or colleague.
This is networking at its essence!
Professional development is most profound outside of the four walls of whatever organization you’re in at the moment.
Get outside. Meet people. You will learn way more than you will inside the walls of your small world.
Information and a Whole Lot More
It may be called an “informational interview” or go by some other name. It’s the one-on-one networking opportunity that we just don’t pursue often enough.
Mostly, we do it when we’re looking for a new job or contemplating a career change. That’s not good enough. Not if you are serious about building your network and your career.
So when the opportunity arises, take it.
If you are to be the primary beneficiary of the meeting, the mentee if you will, then you have before you a fantastic opportunity to learn from someone else.
You have a chance to listen to yourself summarize your situation and articulate your goals. You have a chance to learn about and benefit from someone else’s experience and to see the world from a new perspective. You have a chance to meet more people, to dramatically expand your network.
Go in prepared. Be vulnerable. Listen, learn, and explore a world of new ideas and possibilities by asking lots of questions.
If you are to be the host of the meeting, to be a mentor of sorts, then do your best to help as much as possible.
Ask lots of questions, and then lots of follow up questions. Be sure that you put a lot of time and energy into understanding the person’s situation and their aspirations.
You are helping tremendously by putting the other person through the paces on this. Listening to themselves respond to your probing questions is probably going to be more helpful than any bit of wisdom you may impart directly. The meeting is not about you, it’s about them.
Now, the important part.
Follow up. Don’t let this new connection fade away. The point of the meeting is not the meeting itself, but the new connection.
Cultivate it and expand it. One meeting should lead to further discussions, additional meetings, and most certainly to additional connections through referrals for more informational interviews.
That is networking that is far more powerful than anything you’ll ever find on LinkedIn or industry conference.
So, why not take action today?
A good place to start would be to schedule a get-together with a colleague. Get a date on the calendar for some one-on-one networking with someone you know.
Talk to them about some area of personal professional development, some area you’d like to learn more about or improve on. Ask if they can arrange an informational interview with someone in their network.
This could kick start a nice opportunity to expand your network and your horizons. And it may be a great way to find some new people that you could be helpful to as well.