This week, I’m going to introduce the third step to building your professional community. If you missed the first steps, visit my posts: Step 1: Determine What You Want to Know and Step 2: Identify Contacts.
Step 3: Prepare What You Want To Say
Once you have decided to make contact, you should identify who you are, how you found his/her name and why you are contacting him/her. Again, you may ultimately want a job, but the first contact is about building a relationship, so start with what you are seeking from the contact in the first communication. Something like the following is very inviting:
“I am a graduate student in Sociology at Michigan doing some career exploration on think tanks in child welfare. I saw you did this work on your profile in LinkedIn and I am wondering if I could set up some time to talk with you for a half hour to ask you some questions about what you do...”
How would you feel if someone said your work is interesting and they would like to speak with you? Most of us would love that and respond to it. It also keeps the locus of control on YOU. You are seeking to gain information versus asking them to do a job search for you. This is a subtle and important difference when presenting your story to someone.
Questions you may want to ask in an informational interview contact:
Remember once you connect with someone, you want to prepare a list of questions and guide the discussion—that is your responsibility in this new relationship—to guide the flow of conversation. Here are some Career Center resources to help with this kind of community building and networking.
Next week, I’ll share methods to help you get started making contacts and how to be strategic about your plans and goals. In the meantime, you can start drafting what you want to say to your potential contacts.
About the Author
Paula D. Wishart, Professional Development, Rackham Graduate School
Published in: Professional Development