Contrary to popular belief, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.
Lucky for you, there’s an easy way to get known. It’s called an informational meeting.
What’s an Informational Meeting?
An informational meeting is an opportunity to meet with someone you can learn from. They are a great way to expand your network, increase your influence, and build your brand.
You could meet with someone:
- Who has your dream job
- Who works for a company you want to learn more about
- Who is in an industry you would like to explore
- Who has navigated similar challenges you are facing
- Who you met at a networking event
- Who attended a graduate school you are considering
- Who lives in a city that you’ve always wanted to move to
- Who… [enter your need here]
How To Get an Informational Meeting
The best way to secure an informational meeting is to tap into your existing networks.
Your network includes your family and friends, friends of friends, current or past colleagues, college alumni networks, social networks, people you’ve met at networking events and beyond.
Once you identify people to contact, reach out with a brief email. Introduce yourself, share how you came across them and tell them a little about yourself. From there, ask for 15 minutes of their time for an informational meeting to discuss what you would like to learn from them. Be sure to make this meeting as convenient for them as possible.
Though everyone won’t say yes to your request, you might be surprised how many people will.
What to Do Before the Meeting
Once you secure the meeting, prepare as much as possible. Learn as much about the person, their background and their work. Review their about.me page, personal website, and any other information you can find about them.
What to Do During the Meeting
During the meeting, the focus should be on them. You are there to learn and to be a sponge. Soak up their wisdom.
Prepare great questions and have a goal of what you’d like to get out of the meeting. Avoid asking questions that could be answered with a Google search. Most of the time, the meeting will shift to you. When it does, be ready to talk about your aspirations.
What Not to Do During The Meeting
This is the most important thing you’ll read in this post: do not ask for a job during an informational meeting. If you do, you will immediately lose any good will or trust that you’ve built. Instead, be so impressive that they want to learn more. From here you can share your about.me page.
Two Things to End the Meeting With
First, always ask, “Is there anyone else you think I should meet with?” If you impressed them by your preparation and questions, they will gladly refer you to someone for another informational meeting. Recommendations are powerful and can open doors to new connections.
Second, always send a handwritten thank you note. Taking the time to purchase a card, write something thoughtful, and then mail it at the post office is priceless. Sure, you can send an email, but it’s better not to be delete-able. (If you do decide to send an email, make sure to use an e-mail signature.)
Remember, people generally enjoy helping others. I have always been amazed by people’s willingness to help strangers. Odds are that someone helped them in their career, and they are now willing to reciprocate. You can be that someone.
Antonio Neves is the Director of Higher Education for about.me. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.