Four tips on how to master virtual informational interviews
Alright. Let’s talk about the subject that makes most people nervous. Networking. If you’re like me, you probably know that informationals are the key to networking. Yet it’s one of the hardest art to master, especially if you’re doing it over video or phone. I’m someone who connects with people much better in person, where energies can be exchanged and trust can be built much better. Though that is still a gamble in itself. How do you ensure that a conversation with a stranger goes well? You can’t necessarily know if you’ll end up liking each other and developing a strong professional relationship.
This summer, I’ve done countless virtual informationals with interns, entry-level employees, as well as high-level leaders. When I first started out doing virtual informationals, I was horrible. I remember being so nervous that I couldn’t truly be myself. I was anxious about making the other person like me, to which I came off as robotic and awkward. I came in with a set of questions and found myself moving from one to the other without a fruitful conversation.
I’m here to tell you that there are ways you both can enjoy the informational call. I love that feeling when you accidentally (or intentionally) run over the time because you were so into the conversation. When you finish the informational and can feel your happy hormones through the roof. Through multiple successful informationals, I will reveal to you what works for me. You can increase satisfaction from your conversations by equipping yourselves with these following principles:
- Be intentional: when identifying professionals that you want to connect with, it should be done with intention, not just because that person holds a title that you want or is in a company you want to work for. You should do your homework beforehand to evaluate why you want to have a conversation with someone. There should be a genuine goal that will help you grow professionally. An example could be, you want to learn more about what it takes to be a successful digital marketer in X company. Coming in with a meaningful intention will help you ask great questions that are interesting to both parties.
- Prep for confidence: preparation is the key to everything. The more you’re prepared with information and knowledge, the more you’re going to be sure of what you think and say. One of your goals should be to go into the conversation with a perspective. This means researching the person, their role, the company they work for, and the industry they’re in. While you’re doing your research, jot down some questions about things that intrigue you. Maybe they’ve switch career paths and you’re interested in working in one of those fields. You might wonder, what made them switch from one to the other? It’s about knowing enough about the person to bring up talking points. This shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes.
- Let it flow: so you’ve done your homework, what’s next? This is the part where I want you to be the most relaxed. You’ve done the hard part of networking – setting aside the time to analyze available information and think deeply about your intention. The easy part is here! Now you’ll just have to talk, smile, and listen. It’s important to have a good energy, in order to send positive signals to the other person that you’re interested and invested in the conversation. You can think of the person as if they’re your old friend that you haven’t seen in so long – you can’t wait to learn what they’ve been up to and how they’re doing now. Your goal is that, by the end of the conversation, the other person will think they’ve known you for so long! This takes the ability to truly listen and build off the conversation. Whenever there’s a moment of similarities or shared interest, acknowledge it! Make sure the other person gets your positive reaction from what they say. Don’t get too caught up in running through your list of questions.
- Follow up: this part is very much dependent on your level of engagement in the conversation. This is where you’ll bring in your takeaways, ask any remaining questions, ask for introductions or offer a helpful article/research. This solidifies the fact that your conversation is more than just that, rather it’s a gateway to a professional relationship. Don’t be generic either, you can definitely use a template but personalize it. Let your voice shine through.
With these guiding principles, I have no doubt that you will find success in networking. Remember that it’s a learning process. You are not expected to have fantastic conversation every time. It’s about increasing your chance of great conversations, as your time becomes more limited and valuable. Continue to learn from those you admire and can challenge you to become a better person. You got this!