The Harvard Business Review has a feature called THE MANAGEMENT TIP.
I like these tips because they are short and totally digestible, and reading through a half dozen of them feels like at least the equivalent of half an MBA.
Anyway, I have something to say about today’s hot tip — it’s a really great tip. Though, there was a time in my life when I would have been like, “Yeah that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, no one does that. Ring Ring. ‘Can I have an informational interview?’ I’d rather die.”
But I have learned that the secret to the informational interview is: You don’t call it an informational interview. What it really is: Being curious and reaching out to strangers. That’s it.
Here are the four times I’ve done it:
1. I emailed an old boss to ask him to introduce me to his colleague because I thought she did dope work. He wrote an intro email. I replied to the intro email thanking him for the intro and asking his colleague a question, which was: How can I do what you do? Here’s the email, with specifics removed (TOP SECRET).
I understand how busy you are, and I thank you reading this. This is what I do now, but I’m really interested in learning more about this other thing and developing my skills there. I admire your work in the field because of this specific reason that I’m going to give right now.
Here’s a sentence or two to show you that I actually have done some research and have some knowledge in this field and am not just going to waste your time by asking you questions I could learn from your Twitter bio.
I suppose what I’d love would be a quick phone call during which we could talk about your work and experiences so I can try to emulate the work that you do! Thanks so much, Logan
OK so this is actually not even the best email. I’m reading it now and am kind of grossed out by it. In fact it’s kind of a bore—”emulate the work that you do,” ha, that’s dumb. But it worked, so I think maybe the point is … it doesn’t have to be the best email. It just has to be short and sincere. Sometimes you will not get a response. I did on this one, and we had a phone call, and I learned all about the industry, most importantly that it’s FIVE THOUSAND TIMES HARDER than she makes it look. If I didn’t get a response I’d maybe follow-up once and then move on.
2. I met a woman who had a super, super cool job. The next day (week), I sent her an email saying I loved meeting her and was totally jazzed about the existence of her career and that I’d love to talk to her about how she got to where she is if she ever has the time. Time passed. We had a phone call. Time passed. Every now and then I checked in over email. Time passed. She landed a project that required a person just like me, and since I was in her email inbox sometimes, she asked me if I’d like to apply. I said yes and then jumped through one thousand hoops and got the job. I would not say that this is a typical result when you reach out to people, but I would say this is PERHAPS LITERALLY the only way to actually get a job.
This story was originally published by The Billfold.
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