Information meeting, what some call Informational Interviews, are extremely useful. In a time when it is difficult to find jobs, it is relatively much easier to just meet with people, learn about them and their organizations, what kind of projects they have been working on and build relationships that can eventually lead to opportunities for both you and the person you are meeting with. As a consultant, I've successfully used this technique repeatedly for the past 10 years to meet potential clients.

The keys to success include:

  • Start by calling people you know, having a meeting with them and getting referrals. Don't forget to leverage your professional network on LinkedIn too. If you don't have one, it's never too late to start.
  • When calling someone to ask for a meeting, it helps if you can mention the name of the person who referred you.
  • Always meet face-to-face
  • Never exceed 20-25 minutes, even if they say they don't mind -- schedule a follow-up meeting if necessary
  • Be curious and always come prepared with a printed list of 6 questions, NOT hand written, arranged in order of importance to you, just in case you run out of time. These should be about them, not about you.
  • Never talk about yourself unless they ask. You are there to learn and build a relationship with this person.
  • Always have an up to date resume handy, but only offer your calling card. Only give them your resume if they ask for it
  • Save a couple of minutes at the end to ask them for three referrals they might know of who could use someone like you before
  • Always follow up right away with a Thank You note
  • Research and email them a link to an interesting relevant online article about a week later
  • Keep in touch every 3-4 weeks.
  • If you were given one or more referrals, ALWAYS follow up on them and get back to the person who gave you the information. Not only is this polite but, if people know that you made good use of the information they shared with you, they are much more likely to want to help you even more. Wouldn't you?

Don't just keep track of potential jobs. Keep track of others looking for jobs and what they are looking for. If a potential job isn't a good fit for you, don't waste the opportunity to share this information with someone you know who is. When you start doing this, you are building a network who will also start to keep an eye out for opportunities that might be of interest to you. The next person you help find a job might just end up in a position to hire you or refer you.

I remember having a meeting with a potential client a few years back. We started talking about a project that might be a good fit for me a few months down the road.  I told them that I was already aware of the upcoming project because I had met with one of the directors of that organization just a couple of weeks earlier and learn about it. They were so impressed that they asked if I might be interested in joining their sales team because their own people had not been able to meet with that director for over a year.

You never know who you will meet, who they might know and what tidbit of information they might share with you which could lead to new opportunities. Keep notes of everything and always follow up. Even if they don't have anything for you today, if you learn that there is an interesting project coming where they might need someone like you, keep track of it and keep in touch as this is an opportunity to know and be in front of the right person at the right time.

How many information meetings should you be meeting a day? As many as 4 or 5 is not that difficult to achieve… and you can wave at all the people standing in line at the HR and the employment offices or even worse, waiting for a response to that resume they submitted as you walk by and actually meet with people who have the power to hire you, even when there is a hiring freeze.

For those who are still skeptical, think about this: What do you believe is the primary purpose of human resources? Most people I've spoken to say "to hire people". Think about this for a minute, is that really what they do most of? They actually turn a lot more people away than hire them any day of the week. Are they really going to help you get a job? Hmm… something to think about.

Job opportunities are available; it's just that 80% of them aren't advertised. How long should it take to find a job? Some people will tell you 6 to 12 months. In my experience, that really depends on whether you are working harder or smarter or at all. Finding a job MUST be a full time job each day of the week -- no slacking off during the day and no vacations or time off. If you only work at it an hour a day, it's going to take 8 times longer or more. If you work smarter, it should take anywhere from a few days to 3-4 weeks at the most… even in today's economy and job market. It's the highest paying job you will ever have -- going from 0% income to 100% income upon successful completion of the project. Wouldn't that be worth your time and effort?

Michael Milette
Life and Business Coach