In the wake of so many lay-offs in the legal industry, I have seen attorneys of every practice, age, experience and gender struggle with creative ways to seek employment, develop dynamic opportunities or just reignite their level of professional connection and visibility. Invariably, but with great trepidation, in the course of our discussions, about career planning the topic of information interviews enters the conversation. As does the uncomfortable silence that follows. A silence that shouts “when? how? and what is an informational interview?”
Here is classic example: I just came out of a coaching session with a brilliant, gorgeous top credentialed lawyer who was dizzy from all the vague career advice that she's been getting. Once I got her into a chair, gave her something to drink, she breathed heavily, stared deeply into the glass of cold water I gave her, she paused and then looked up quickly at me with wide eyes and asked "What EXACTLY IS an Informational Interview and why would ANYONE ever agree to giving me one!!??? Well, that was the impetus for my post. Informational interviews...hmmm..Lately it seems like the universal panacea for everything from baldness to career nirvana. So I thought I'd try to set the record straight.
In my view there are a couple of ground rules about the ever-cryptic “Informational Interview” which we will refer to as I.I: First, when asking for one, don't use the term I.I; it makes people squirm and feel guilty. Ask for a 15 minute meeting or coffee to talk about what they do. People love to talk about themselves and are more likely to agree. Second, you should go into an I.I. with one of four goals in mind:
- make a new connection with someone in your desired practice area (1 Point: Networking);
- find out if that person may be able to suggest someone else you should speak with or connect with (2 Points: Now you are really networking;
- making a memorable impression so that if something does open up you are on their mind (3 Points: networking and getting a toe in the door); or
- gently exploring whether there is an "internal opening" and who you should reach out to about it (4 Points: networking, foot in the door plus a contact person). My thought is...think about the I.I. like a strategic conversation that is always a win-win for you...because you are connecting and widening your sphere of knowledge and influence.
Part II: Why Would Anyone Bother?
So we answered the first part of my client’s questions: “What is an Informational Interview?” in my first entry. Now onto the other half of my client’s question: “Why would ANYONE ever agree to give one??!”
Here are the top three answers as to why someone agrees to give an I.I.:
- FIRST: Believe or not, people like to help people (don’t roll your eyes...) studies show that professional satisfaction relies heavily on the ability to have “meaning” to your work. At some point, we all got a break; many people remember that and like to pay it forward. Makes them feel good….(there is a pattern here.)
- SECOND: Most people feel very isolated in their jobs and work. Many people will grant an I.I. so that they can connect, mentor and add value to someone else’s career objectives. These are key leadership activities they may not be able to access or may not be given an opportunity to demonstrate in their present position. This builds their skills as leaders and makes them feel good—a great motivator to do anything.
- THIRD: Talent can come from the most unlikely places. And sometimes an I.I. presents the interviewer with talent that they or the company may quietly need. Finding talent that way and presenting it to their boss, shows initiative and makes them look good. Another motivator for granting an I.I.
Either way you look at it setting up a…you know… 15 minute coffee meeting …is a win-win for everyone!© 2013 LawScope Coaching, LLC