When you prepare for a networking or informational interview, you need a series of steps:
This link is devoted, as you can see, to helping you do a better job of interviewing and collecting the data you actually need. First, we need to consider the importance of questions. As this link develops, I will provide examples of questions from various sources to make your job easier. Obviously, you need to conceive certain questions that relate to a specific interviewee. These questions will only serve as a guide to the numerous questions you will eventually ask. Remember, you need enough questions for about a 45-minute interview. You need in-depth questions and open-ended as well as closed-end questions.
Our first list of questions will come from The Job Doctor: Good Advice on Getting a Good Job by Phil Norris (Indianapolis, Indiana: JIST Works, Inc., 1990):
Please consider: The interviewee may not answer this question, because the information is proprietary.
Different books emphasize different points in interviewing. The National Business Employment Weekly has prepared a series of books on resumes, interviewing, cover letters, and interviewing. In the book on Networking the author, Douglas B. Richardson, poses a series of informational interviewing questions under selected headings:
Please think about: The previous questions suggest you have shown your resume to the interviewee at the time of the interview. You must do it. I would urge you to have a job objective and a job summary placed on the resume before submitting to the informational interviewee.
Please think about: Your interviewee should assume you have done some homework about the industry or profession you want to enter upon graduation.
Once you have had completed your informational interview, you are ready to write the networking memo. The memo should include:
Whom did you interview? How long did the interview take? Where (including company name and city) did the interview take place? What was the date of the interview? Why did you choose this individual?
You may divide two questions and the answers into one paragraph. Write differently from "he/she said, I said." Use a narrative, flowing style.
My guess is the memo may take at least six to seven pages, based on past experience. Use talking captions as always. Introduce a quote before actually saying the interviewee mentioned. For example, you could say: In talking about the future of a marketing analyst, Mr. Penrose stated: ". . ."
Suppose we take an actual paragraph from a networking memo and point out some of the flaws and some of the good points. This paragraph occurred as the second paragraph in the memo:
Analyst's Position Requires Flexibility
What is your position and title, and what would an average day look like? The senior analyst answers that the position involves many areas of MIS, from designing to programming to customer contact. In the morning you may be working on a program and in the afternoon they may need you for a special project. You need to be flexible and knowledgeable in all aspects of the field.
Comments: In the first place, the reporting student does not need to write the question again. The reader can check all the questions as an attachment. Second, the problem with impersonal you becomes apparent as the reader looks over the paragraph. The reader is not part of the discussion of the interviewing data. Let's try rewriting the paragraph as a more objective presentation. The memo writer has tried to accurately report the data in the paragraph.
The senior analyst was first asked about the position title and the makeup of an average day. The analyst answered that the position involves many MIS areas, from designing to programming and customer contact. In the morning the employee may be working on a program, and in the afternoon the company needs a special project. In this position it is necessary to be flexible and knowledgeable in all parts of MIS.
Comments: The memo writer has attempted to express ideas more objectively. The senior analyst becomes the subject, not the impersonal you. Do you see how the paragraphs of your networking memo can be improved?
Students continue to ask for an example of an actual networking memo from previous years. I will try to provide that example, recognizing the limitations of writing in HTML.
To: Professor Christensen From: Mary R. Student e-mail: email@example.com Date: Current Subject: INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEW
This memorandum tells you about my recent interview with Henny McDonald, an attorney practicing tax and family law. The interview took approximately 45 minutes and was held at the law offices of Schnosy, McDonald, and Crucial. The law offices are located in Century City, California.
Interview Teaches Relevant Information
The interview took place Monday, September 30, 19-, before work at 8:30 a.m. We spoke about her background, job and advice. This conversation was especially helpful to me, because I am considering going to law school and would like to be in a position similar to hers within the next 10 years (assuming the finishing of school within five years). The next paragraphs contain specific learnings from the interview.
Hard Work Starts Early
From age four to sixteen, Henny worked in the acting industry. At 19, while attending a community college, she worked at J.C. Penney. She, then, was employed as a secretary for an insurance company. While in the elevator on her way to work one morning, a secretary, whose office was above the insurance company, offered her a job. Henny accepted the job, because she had done research and discovered legal secretaries made more money and had more stability in their jobs than any other secretaries. Ms. McDonald worked as a legal secretary for this attorney for three years for what she affectionately calls, "two fish heads and a bowl of rice."
Mother Attends Law School
Henny took a 50 percent pay cut when she moved onto a large firm. She worked at Castle, Nicherson, and Percy as a litigation secretary until she became pregnant with her first daughter. After her second daughter, and final child, was born, Henny reported, "she analyzed the situation." Henny had worked as a legal secretary for 13 years and did most of what the attorneys did without the recognition or pay. She decided to go to a small law school, which is now called LaVerne. She chose this school because it was the closest to home and accepted her; she did not possess a college education at this time.
Firms Provide Necessary Experience
This lawyer attended law school full-time for three years; she graduated first in her class and passed the Bar the first time it was taken. She went to work for Nemamek and Coleson to gain experience in litigation. In the newspaper this talented person saw an opening for a managing attorney for the United Fabric Workers, Van Nuys plan, which was to be closed. Five hundred applicants were seeking this position. Henny got the job because the interviewer was reminded of his grandmother. At United Fabric, Henny learned management while gaining an institutional client. When the plant shut, she opened her own practice, and became a Cooperating Attorney for United Fabric Service Plan. In that way, this attorney kept a client base and "kept the lights on."
Partners Make Decisions
Henny compared being employed in a firm with owning her own practice. In a firm the attorney is a "white slave." Henny didn't get paid for overtime, but she was expected to work seven days per week and do whatever was necessary to help the partners. A firm requires more stablity than one's own practice, because a set salary is received. However, nothing is absolute. The income remains less secure during downsizing and layoffs.
Another phase of working for a firm Henny did not like was conforming to the partners' standards. The partners often had a "God complex." She was not given the opportunity to have contact with clients, and she was told what to do. Attorneys pigeon-holed her into one task, which led to personal problems, such as alcoholism. Additionally, the politics of the office were set by the partners, and sexual harassment did occur.
Freedom Proves Beneficial
When working for her own practice, Henny still had to do whatever was necessary, but she decided what was necessary. She initiated the ability to accept or reject cases. She also was not required to work around the partners' schedules; she could wash her kitchen floor before coming to work a particular morning. However, when asked about the last weekend she didn't do any work at the office, Henny couldn't remember when that occurred. Ms. McDonald informed a client, for example, about the status of his case at the Swing Line Dance last night. She also comes in on Saturdays to check the mail and the e-mail.
Other benefits Henny noted in her practice included flexibility of the dress code and performing varying duties. As the boss, Henny remained multitalented. She attracted clients, ran the accounting department, and so forth. Ms. Henny also had to make sure the need of her employees were met before she could take a paycheck.
United Fabric Gives Incentives
In Ms. McDonald's opinion, the United Fabric Service Plans reduced the risk of opening her own business. She knew 50 percent of businesses fail within the first year. Henny also knew, to build a client base, she would initially have to take disliked cases. The United Fabric employment gave her the security to make the change to a sole proprietorship.
Experience Teaches Lessons
Henny advised others starting a practice to do the following:
She also said an attorney's reputation is the person's most important asset; it should not be compromised. Again, she advised someone wanting to pursue law to work for an attorney. If a position in a large firm is sought later, the law school chosen always remains important.
General Practice Rewards Henny
When asked what area of law was most rewarding, Ms. McDonald replied it was Elder Law. She then went on to say her general practice was rewarding. She liked being able to send people in the right direction. She also preferred being honest with clients, such as telling them when Small Claims Court might be a better option than expending attorney's fees. Henny enjoys providing a service she believes is "worthy of accomplishment." She enjoys meeting people the most in her daily activities.
Attorneys Need Proper Temperament
As with any profession, the law requires certain skills and characteristics. An attorney, Henny believes, needs to like people, possess snoopiness, exhibit common sense, want to learn, and appreciate the duties. If Henny's daughters possessed those qualities, she would recommend they enter law.
Henny Prepares for Future
In the future, Ms. Henny sees more computer influence with less need for libraries and attorneys depending more on themselves than on secretaries. To prepare for this change she keeps herself informed. Additionally, to stay competitive, Henny uses new technology, advertises her services, and writes articles for a local newspaper as well as participates in different legal service plans. She views Elder Law as an expanding area of law; she will
be attending an Elder Law seminar in San Jose soon. Other fields Henny believed were important to know included Tax Law, Accounting, and Psychology.
Graduate Obtains Employment
Unlike when a recent law school graduate could hire into a firm with the anticipation of passing the Bar, most firms are only hiring practicing attorneys now. However, finding a job occur early through attending recruitment at law school and taking clerking positions during the summers. If the previous suggestions and word of mouth fail, the Daily Journal, a legal newspaper, provides a good place to find positions available for attorneys. Beginning positions ranged in salary from $45,000 to $80,000. Employers look for class ranking, the ability to bring in business and the emphasis on social circles when considering the hiring of new attorneys. Unfortunately, these employers consider race and gender. The glass ceiling for women and minorities still exists, and the "Old Boys' Club" is still being fought.
New Attorney Chooses from Many Avenues
Where new attorneys should look for work depends on their goals and intellect. A large firm provides a good fit for someone who is excellent with legal research and bringing in business. Government work remains an option for someone who wants a steady paycheck and an opportunity to learn quickly. If an attorney doesn't need much money, public interest law can be rewarding. Other options include, according to Henny, teaching law, analyzing constitutional law, and opening a sole practice. Law school students are exposed to many facets to help them decide what ones to pursue.
Interviewee Analyzes Resume
Henny critiqued my resume by suggesting a section of Skills and Capabilities. She liked my including valedictorian. As my experience in law increases, I should omit the two pizza companies worked for. Transcription experience needs to be placed under Skills and Capabilities. At this initial interview, Henny noticed I was scared but articulate. She thought I sounded willing to learn and showed respect by dressing well.
Two Names Were Provided
Henny gave me the names of two attorneys whom I could speak with for additional information. This information and their names are attached. A copy of the resume I provided Henny is also attached for your review and comments. Also, the thank-you letter sent to Henny is included.
Assignment Proves Helpful
In this assignment I have learned about the myriad duties of an attorney. My goal has solidified to become an attorney, but the difficult road to that goal is much clearer. Henny showed me how important hard work and realizing a dream are necessary. She also showed me women can succeed in that field. This assignment has crystallized my thinking about going to law school.
Attachments: thank-you letter
informational interview questions
notes taking during interview
referral business cards Obviously, the list should be aligned after the colons of Attachments.
The following checklist is used to evaluate the strengths of the previous memo:
You may have heard of Harvey Mackay as the author of Swim with the Sharks without Being Eaten Alive. He has written numerous self-help books, and his latest book deals with the importance of networking. As Mr. Mackay, former CEO, suggests, we are not using rocket science for a set of guidelines to assist your networking. As I have recommended on various occasions, networking should become a way of life. Therefore, it is appropriate to first read Mackay's Maxim: "No matter how smart you are, no matter how talented, you can't do it alone."
His Top-Ten List like David Letterman's is worth looking at. He groups these items as ten reasons why a network will work:
Comment: We should know about the people who are trying to get ahead of us or compete heavily with us. No wonder we give China Most Favored Nation Status. It is better to deal with the Chinese than to keep them at arm's length.
Comment: That's why I believe in meeting at least one new person every time I have to board an airplane. What that person has to say to me may stretch my ability to learn something new.
Comment: Mackay cautions that time is the easiest commodity to barter.
Have I piqued your interest in Mackay's thinking about networking? Consider reading Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You'll Ever Need.
For years I had heard about the gentleman, Harvey Mckay, and his books on not swimming with sharks and the naked man offering his shirt. Finally, I took time to invest in that book, Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You'll Ever Need. The book's title caught my interest because of our material on networking. Also, I was intrigued about how his book would supplant all the other books on networking.
Mackay became famous for his handling of his company, Harvey Mackay Envelope Company, and his many contacts. He preaches a philosophy that shows how successful he was in business. Throughout numerous chapters Mackay leaves us with those type of maxims mentioned earlier for networking thought. Another example follows:
Your best network will develop best from what you do best.
He tells us about all kinds of avenues for network prospecting. We should talk to alumni and know about alumni clubs. Industry associations are also examples of good places for contacts. Social clubs, such as golf clubs and athletic clubs, also wield their influence in networking. Hobbies, such as stamp and coin collecting, also yield possibilities for contacts.
In one of the chapters Mackay describes how he even learned from certain football coaches. Harvey cautions people who are shy in networking should remember this further maxim:
For most people networking is a learned behavior, like learning to swim. It is a gradual-and often painful, even scary-process of trial and error, small incremental steps, and, finally, a few breakthroughs.
You should become aware of an excellent paperback, Job Notes: Networking, by Meg Heenehan from Princeton. This book has become one of a series of paperbacks devoted to the job search, including Interviewing. Ms. Heenehan offers considerable advice (pp. 4-7) about the importance of networking:
True Nature of the Job
Long-Term Career Opportunities
Personal Experiences of Job Holder
Advice, Not Information
Request for Personal Insight
Person of Good Judgment
Person with Foresight and Vision
Give Up Lone Ranger Mentality
Honor Your Relationships
Coercing or Manipulating
Putting Friends, Neighbors, Associates on the Spot
Badgering People about Your Business
Don't forget to refer back to the home page for additional help, especially the links on Questions, Questions, and More Questions, and the job search links, including resumes and employment communications.
(c)copyright G. Jay Christensen, All Rights Reserved