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"Speed Date" Your Way to Your Dream Job

Career, Leadership Coach Offers Tips

By Carrie Handwerker

"Speed Date" Your Way to Your Dream Job

Photo by John T. Consoli

Photo by John T. Consoli

If you have your sights set on a dream job or you're considering a career switch, talk to a lot of people before you’re married to a particular path. Career coaches call this tactic conducting informational interviews—and it's a lot like dating, says Rachel Loock, a career and leadership coach at the Robert H. Smith School of Business.

"Get a range of perspectives to help narrow down what resonates with you and what would really light your fire," Loock says.

She offers the following rules for the informational interview dating game:

Ask others to set you up. Someone you know is likely connected with someone else who has your dream job. Ask your connection to make the introduction and offer to return the favor.

Don't come on too strong. Avoid asking someone you met just once in passing for an interview. Make a few connections first, perhaps through LinkedIn, emails and professional groups. 

Send clear signals that you're interested. If you have a great conversation with someone, use what you talked about as an entry point to start an email relationship.

Broaden your search. People with the most coveted positions at top firms get many requests for informational interviews, so it might be difficult to get time with them. Mid-tier or lesser-known organizations might offer a better fit. 

Don't waste their time. Limit phone calls to 15 or 20 minutes. Request a call first, but if the person suggests grabbing coffee or lunch, take them up on it. 

Make your move. Have a list of questions ready. Some basic ones to start with: What do you like or not like about the job? What's the culture of this company? What characteristics make someone in this field successful?

Talk about past relationships. This person may be able to point you to others, or they may even be interested in connecting with someone in your network.

Don't wait two days to follow up. Send a thank you email or note later that day or the next, and ask if you can stay in touch.

Play the field. Each informational interview is one person's perspective, but chances are as you talk to more people, you'll see themes emerge.

Not interested? End it quick. Now you can start over with your research to find the job you really want.



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