Have you ever had an "informational interview?" If you have, then you may know what I am talking about but if you haven't, here is a brief explanation. Watch: How To Stop Being Random With Your Networking Efforts An informational interview is a tool to help job seekers, career transitioners, and even college students, understand a particular job or field they are considering moving toward. It is a brief conversation - either on the phone or in person - in which the person seeking the new career is "interviewing" the person currently in the role or field of study. The goal is to learn about the perception versus reality of an area of interest. I did this when I was first looking into coaching. It was the best thing I could have done. I wasn't sure career coaching was what I wanted to focus on. By speaking to real coaches in various areas of expertise, I got a true picture of the training and experience necessary and even the lifestyle/schedule. Before digging into how to have an effective interview, there are a few key differences between a regular job interview and an informational interview I want you to understand. The informational interview is targeted at:

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This article was written by Lisa Adams, founder of Fresh Air Careers, on behalf of the Happy Grad Project. I was speaking with one of my nephews, Matthew, a few weeks back. He is two years out of college and gainfully employed at UCF. Actually, it is one of his dream jobs, marketing within the athletics department. I asked him what was the one piece of advice he received, prior to graduation, that helped him make a successful shift to life after college.
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The culture of an organization is incredibly important when you are making a job switch. It becomes imperative if you have lived through the challenges of working for a company or two that were not fits. Have you ever taken a job thinking the company culture was “A” but it was really “X”? To clarify, an organization’s culture encompasses several elements.

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Let’s face it: the holiday season in the U.S. can be so blessed and wonderful, but if you are in the middle a painful time in your life, it can be even more than we can bare. So, how do you get through a holiday job search? As my husband goes through his transition, I actually dread this time of year. One, for the social commitments I may or may not want to attend to; and two, for the pressure of gift giving, especially when there is no money for gifts and I love to give. It hurts not being able to give to family and friends. I hate it. But with my frustrations comes time with family and friends, that is humbling and truly blessed. Just being together to share triumphs and tragedies from the past year and plan to a hopeful future for the year to come. How blessed that is.

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The goals of a cover letter are to 1) affirm the connection you have (hopefully) already made with the addressee and 2) to get you noticed. If that is the case, why do all the cover letters I see look the same? All short one paragraph, maybe with a few bullets about why this candidate is applying for the job. What do you think the reaction is from recruiters and hiring managers when they see this type of cover letter? I say “SNOOZE - BORING.” Ignore! Is it effective to just talk about yourself the same way everyone else does? No. You need to do it differently if you are going to get a different result.

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Proper and effective follow up after an interview - informational, phone, or in-person - is incredibly important. Without it you will easily be taken out of consideration for the position. As a hiring manager, I purposely looked for the thank-you notes. If I did not receive one, they were off the list, no matter how qualified they were. Do you know why? Because as a manager, I would think, “If they can’t effectively follow up with something as personally important as a job interview, what will they do as far as follow up in the workplace?” Past behavior is a predictor for future behavior. You get the point. Send thank-you notes and e-mails within 24 hours of your interview! Never miss this step. Send notes to all the individuals with which you had a conversation. Do not send one note to just the hiring manager. You will miss out on all the other contacts that you made. Even a note to the receptionist / office manager is appropriate and helpful but only if you had more of a conversation not just a “hello.” Make the notes unique to each individual based on the conversation you had with them. Remind them of the conversation you had. In each note, remind the contact why you bring value to the company/ team / position and show your enthusiasm. As the hiring process progresses or slows, stay in touch with your contacts, as appropriate. If the process has slowed begin to follow up about every two business weeks. Too soon and it will be considered over-kill. Much later that two weeks and you’ll be forgotten. Follow up with an e-mail and include a value add. A value add may be an article you read since you last spoke that made you think of them or a topic you discussed in your interview. It's a piece of information you thought would be helpful to them. This helps to keep the conversation going and shows you are willing to help others. You’ll be seen as that all important “team player.” Later, after you have given the hiring process time, reach out to each individual on LinkedIn and add them as a connections. Even if this job does not work out, you never know, by staying in touch, what could happen down the road. A client of mine was super excited about a position last fall. Unfortunately, a former employee came back and filled the opening. Although the interviews went well. She did her follow-up communications after the interviews and after she learned of the no-offer. She followed up again in a couple of months with a value added article and to say hello. By doing this, a few weeks later when a position opened up, she was the one who got the call. She is now happily enjoying her new job. Photo Credit: Shutterstock