Meeting People is Easy: Informational Interviews

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One of the most helpful things I do as I make progress in my career transformation is to be open to meeting as many people as I can who work in the industry I’m moving into.  I started out small, knowing very few people working in digital or at a design firm or at a tech company but as I meet people, my network grows.  People enjoy talking about what they do and helping others who want to learn.  People are proud of the work they do and it’s their way of giving back.

So, I set up in-person meetings at my contacts' convenience.  Meeting in person is critical as it establishes a good report and allows me to get the person’s full attention.  It's also more fun and I have a chance to show some personality.

I make sure to leave every meeting with the following:

  1. Insight on information specific to the industry, role(s) I’m curious about and very importantly, what steps I can take to learn and develop.
  2. Another contact.  I make a point to ask the person if they know and are willing to put me in touch with some other folks who might be able to and want to help out.

I meet with as many people as I can, even if they may give me very similar information as another person who I’ve spoken to – There is something to be said about getting different perspectives. Even when a meeting is not what I had hoped for, I have always been able to take at least one positive from the experience. 

Bridging the Gap: “Hard Knowledge”

“Hard Knowledge” is information pertaining to and specific to an industry or line of work.  The pharmaceutical industry is complex and I needed to learn and know very detailed information specific to my job.  The same is true for the industry I’m pursuing.  I have transferable professional knowledge that I will use from my experience in my last career, but there are PLENTY of knowledge areas that I need to understand so I can feel comfortable with the business, its processes and the work various teams are responsible for.

I have a big time interest in learning as much as I can about the design/digital design industry, including its technical areas.  I want to know what constitutes great design, how innovative products are taken from conception to launch/production, what is involved in running a successful project, etc., etc., etc.  I spend my time familiarizing myself with concepts and this is an ongoing endeavor.

How?

  1. I take classes at General Assembly.
  2. I attend as many Meetups as possible (this is a great, free resource to learn and meet other like-minded people)
  3. I bother people - I network and set up as many informational interviews with as many people as possible for the sake of learning and getting as many unique perspectives as I can.
  4. Read, Read, Read: I read industry and agency/firm news and blogs and I take time to work my way through books each day.

I’m hungry for information and I find ways to get the knowledge I need to begin to bridge the gap.  I will dig deeper into these topics in upcoming posts.