Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Power of an Informational Meeting

Last Friday I received the greatest news of 2014. I was offered a new job and a promotion. Now I wasn’t totally surprised when I received the offer, but I was surprised that an offer was on the table so quickly. I never had a formal job interview for the position. I landed the job solely on a series of informational meetings. I know, very interesting.

So what is an informational meeting and how do I get one? Let discuss….

According to Wikipedia, an informational meeting is a meeting in which a potential job seeker seeks advice on their career, the industry, and the corporate culture of a potential future workplace; while an employed professional learns about the job seeker and judges their professional potential and fit to the corporate culture, so building their candidate pool for future hire.

Makes sense! I can’t recall exactly how I learned about informational meetings or who put me on, but I picked up on the practice back in 2008. While working at my miserable investment banking job that I hated with a passion (sorry, I had a quick flashback), I started setting up informational meetings around the city in various industries to help me figure out my next move. I found that people were generally very receptive, and as long as you were flexible and respectful of their time, it was a cake walk. It’s important to target correctly when requesting informationals. Don’t reach out to the Chief Executive Officer of the company and ask for an informational. It’s good to begin peer to peer. Meaning if you are a manager or a 2ND year attorney, reach out to a fellow manager or 2ND year attorney.

Know your shit! Yes! Remember you must have a purpose for requesting these meetings. With that purpose must come a high level of preparedness.

So here is how it works.

I like to think about industry and/or sector. So for example if you presently work in marketing and want to move into publishing, you should take the time to do research on the publishing industry on your own, before asking for any meetings. Then you would identify key players in publishing and their respective organizations. Check with friends and professional colleagues to see if anyone can offer an introduction. If a introduction is available, take it. Learn about that organization and its current happenings. Learn about that person. Once the introduction is made for you, promptly follow up and be able to reference the company happenings and/or recent news involving that individual.
Here is an example:
Your friend Jane Smith is a Director at Pepsi and she is good friends with Jennifer Smith a Senior Manager at Conde Nast. An email introduction happens, then you immediately follow up stating:
"Thank you for the introduction Jane. Jennifer, I am very interested in exploring career opportunities in publishing. I was very impressed with your work on the candy girl project and would like to talk to you about how my current skills set would apply to a similar project in publishing."
You've let the person know that you have a genuine interest in their industry and them professionally. From this point on, you make sure that you are professional, flexible and respectful of their time.
Whether it's a phone call or in person meeting, be on time, courteous, and prepared with questions and knowledge, to engage in a meaningful dialogue. Post meeting follow up with a thank you email or hand written note. Be sure to maintain the relationship and not let the door close.
Sometimes you have to initiate an informational meeting cold, without an introduction. You should treat it the same way. In your initial correspondence, it's helpful if you have something to identify the individual with or reference (promotion, business deal, award,etc) in your communication.
Remember an informational meeting is always an interview and should be treated as such.
Informational meetings are also an excellent tool to be used in your respecitive organizations. I make it a practice to have at least two coffee chats or informationals, per a month. Within my organization, I follow the news and happenings across the business, and anytime I see someone do something that is interesting or impressive to me, I send them a note. Even better, when I see someone in my company do something on the outside, I send them a note a well. Most people are very impressed.
Informational meetings are a very valuable and powerful tool. I encourage everyone to use them.
1) Are you familar with informational meetings? How often do you use them?
2) Do you have any strategies to make an informational meeting more useful?
3) How do you presently network in your current organization?
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