Frequently, when people use their contacts to try to change jobs or careers, they make one of several mistakes:
- They spend the whole time talking about themselves
- They spend the whole time asking questions the other person doesn’t feel comfortable answering
- They squander the opportunity and forget to meet their primary objectives.
How you present yourself to the people who are helping you furthers your personal brand. If you make one or more of the mistakes above, then you’ve communicated that your personal brand is self-centered, unprofessional or scattered. Whereas if you’re focused, clear and appropriate, that’s what your interviewee is going to walk away saying about you.
Let’s say you are looking for a new position. You want to check out this hot new startup. You did your homework and received an introduction to one of the managers, who we will call Jeffrey.
Do you ask for an informational interview? No…..
What you want to do is ask for A – I – R. You will ask for advice, insights and recommendations.
• A – Advice– When you ask for advice it is a compliment. Rarely will anyone ever turn you down when you ask advice. In an e-mail to Jeffrey, ask for 30 minutes of his time to ask for some advice. It could be about how to pursue a position at the company or to learn more about the company. The magic word is “advice!”
• I – Insights– Once you meet Jeffrey ask for his insights into how the company functions, the culture and management structure. You might ask him how he was hired or does he like his job. You will want to ask very open ended questions to give Jeffrey to talk. This is NOT ABOUT YOU.
• R – Recommendations – This is the part that many people forget. Ask what should I do next? Is there anyone else you would recommend I talk with? Can you introduce me to anyone else within the organization?
You will ask Jeffrey questions and only talk about yourself when asked. It is not about you!
This is all about building the relationship. Asking for advice, insights and recommendations is a great way to initiate and cultivate a lasting relationship.
You have not asked for help to get a job, but you have asked for help in understanding the organization and for further networking opportunities. You are networking to build relationships and not to find a job. The opportunity to interview for a position will come later after you have established relationships.
Jeffrey will likely provide an introduction to at least one person, if not two, if you made it clear you were interested in him and his perspective.
You will ask for advice, insights and recommendations from each of the individuals that Jeffrey made introductions.
When each meeting is complete who you gonna call? Jeffrey.
Well maybe not call, but at least send him an e-mail and let him know how it went. You will also tell him if you received any more introductions. People love to know that they’re helping and that the time they spent with you had some value. They also appreciate knowing that you’re grateful and recognize the time and effort they contributed to your career search.
Now, if a position opens up at this hot startup, Jeffrey will think of you. If you made a favorable impression, he might even call you before the position is posted.
I was hired exactly this way at my last two tech startup companies.
Marc Miller is the founder of Career Pivot which helps Baby Boomers design careers they can grow into for the next 30 years. Marc authored the book Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers, published in January 2013, which has been featured on Forbes.com, US News and World Report, CBS Money-Watch and PBS’ Next Avenue. Marc has made six career pivots himself, serving in several positions at IBM in addition to working at Austin, Texas startups, teaching math in an inner-city high school and working for a local non-profit.