This is just a short message to wish everyone happy holidays – and to encourage students to make good use of their extended winter breaks by scheduling several informational interviews to begin (or continue) the critical networking process. Here’s my list for making good use of winter breaks:
Utilize the down-time! Winter breaks often mean that students may be home for 4-6 weeks and while school work and socializing may require some student time and attention, please remember that is also an excellent time to begin building your understanding of possible industries and roles through networking. Practice those critical interview skills. Ironically, as busy as the holiday season is for many people, business people often have relatively light work schedules — making now a surprisingly good time for informational interviewing!
Parents and Students: network now! If you’re a parent, now is a good time to ask friends and relatives if they would be willing to talk to your child about possible future career paths. An informational interview is all that you are requesting – just to help your child gain some industry knowledge and an understanding of certain roles and functions. It is not an “ask” about job openings, but rather a friendly conversation in which your contact talks about his professional experiences with your child. Most people are very receptive as they generally welcome an opportunity to talk about themselves!
If you’re a student, utilize this free time to do some networking on your own. If your parents’ friends or friends’ parents work in industries you might be interested in, ask them if you could come talk to them about their work experiences. Again, you are only asking for an informational interview.
In Informational Interviews, you are the “Interviewer.” Be prepared to ask the “interviewee” 10-12 good questions about his/her work experiences in the industry and the company. Ask about their career paths, specific roles and functional areas. Make sure to ask questions that help build your understanding (and that don’t have answers available readily on the company’s website). Generally, the more the person talks about personal views and experiences, the more successful the meeting will be. Always remember to close the interview by thanking them for their time (obviously!) and asking if they might know other people willing to talk with you. Take notes — they’ll be flattered and you’ll likely get useful information.
Polish your answer to “Tell me about yourself.” You’re going to need a good answer to this question – for any type of interview. I recommend creating a 2-3 minute response that covers several categories: your academic experiences, professional experiences, outside interests, and any career/internship objectives and interests — in that order. (In a “real” interviews, your career objectives and interests at the company would become the most important segment.)
Take advantage of “informal” networking opportunities. Holiday parties and casual get-togethers present great opportunities to network. As a parent, they are good forums for getting the word about your child’s interests. As a student, people will naturally ask you about school and your studies. Make sure to tell them what you are thinking about in terms of internships or full-time roles. You will be surprised how often people will offer up some knowledge or contacts within your areas of interest.