This 8-step guide is designed to help you organize and conduct information meetings.
Why do Information Meetings?
- Information meetings do not come naturally to many people - we are simply not trained or mentored for them. But with consistent practice you will soon realize that these types of meetings are in fact useful conversations about the job market with a wider variety of people than you might otherwise encounter.
- Information meetings can be quite illuminating. You will gain new perspectives and insights from other people’s unique experiences – this can include an inside view of a specific job, profession, industry.
- These conversations will widen your knowledge of the hidden job market and any potential gaps (that could be filled!).
- These meetings are good opportunities for you to bring your own unique experiences to life through conversation, to chat about what you love to do most, what you would like to learn in the next year or two, what you would like develop further in your professional life, where you would like to contribute your time and talents.
- Conversations are always less stressful than job interviews!
Step One – “Who”
Start compiling a list of the people you would like to speak with. It can help to start with people you know. You will feel more comfortable with them.
Some examples are family, friends of family, former teachers, people you have worked with and/or people you have met through other professional connections. It is often very surprising the number of people we know within our own circle and how helpful a conversation with them can be.
Once you have several information meetings under your belt, you can expand your list and reach out to people you do not know personally but whose specific work, professional area or experiences are of interest to you.
Very often during an information meeting, the person you are speaking with will suggest someone you could potentially contact for yet another information meeting - these types of meetings often foster good brainstorming. Take advantage of the suggestions your contacts make as this will help you to develop a wider network.
Step Two – “Why”
For each person on your list, write out the specific reason(s) you would like to have a conversation with them. For example, it might be that person’s role and expertise in a specific field or profession; it might be that individual’s professional journey, the trajectory of their career; or it might focus on someone’s perspective or broad knowledge of a particular industry.
Your aim is to make use of THEIR unique expertise, interests, perspective, knowledge, opinions, and talents.
Step Three – “The E-mail Invitation”
Once you have a list of potential people and the reasons you want to have a conversation with them, it is time to send out email invitations.
An e-mail requesting an information meeting should be polite and somewhat formal but also in your own voice. In other words, be yourself. People respond more readily when the invitation is polite, genuine, and well organized.
Include the following as you construct your invitation:
- Introduce yourself.
- How you come across their name.
- Why you are reaching out to them and requesting an information meeting – this is where you refer to their specific expertise, experiences or how their perspective would be very useful to you as you build a network, develop next steps, and organize your goals (go back to your notes on WHY in step 2 to guide you).
- Ask if they are available to meet for a brief information meeting of about 30 minutes.
- A polite ending, “I look forward to hearing from you”…., and include your name, phone and email.
Step Four – The Preparation of “2 Questions”
The typical time frame for information meetings is anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Most people are happy to offer their time when asked. Your task is to respect that offer by keeping the meeting tightly organized: you are literally gathering information.
To prepare you should create and customize 2 questions that relate to the specific person you will be meeting with.
Helpful hint: avoid broad and general questions such as, “what opportunities are available in this field”?
As you create your 2 questions, keep the following in mind:
- Go over your notes from Step 2, what specific expertise, talent, knowledge, or perspective does this individual have and what would you like to know more about? The tighter the question, the more information you will get.
- Give your questions some personal context – this enables the person you are speaking with to fine tune their answer and provide you with information that is relevant and useful.
Example: Suppose you are developing a career path, or you are embarking on a career transition, and you have an interest in both stage management and business.
If your information meeting is with someone in theatre management, you would want to preface your questions with some context. Tell this person why the combination of stage management and business is of interest to you, or if you already have experience, how you combined these two interests and the value you believe it brought to the theatre environment. You could further illustrate this point with a professional experience you have had.
One of your questions might focus on whether there are specific roles/positions within theatre management that rely on business perspectives or the application of specific business models. Another question might be, how might your interests in both business and theatre translate into a role in the operating of a theatre? Do they know of anyone on the business side in the theatre community with whom you could speak?
Step Five – “2 - 3 Points About You”
Organize 2 – 3 points you would like the person you are meeting with to know about you. You can focus on your skills, how you work and/or several experiences you have had. Keep these points in line with the previous steps so that your proposed conversation is coherent, organized, and authentic. While you want these conversations to be somewhat organic (you want some spontaneous brainstorming), you also want the meeting itself to be organized!
The points you choose to highlight can come from your list of capabilities, profile and/or reflective exercises. This material provides a wealth of information that can be used continuously to organize the content for these types of meetings. It also keeps you focused on personalizing your experiences, interests, expertise, education, learned skills to date, and what you want to develop further.
Step Six – “Follow-up E-mails”
The more e-mail invitations you send out….well you know the outcome of this formula!
When you receive a positive response let good manners be your guide!
- Send an e-mail thanking them for agreeing to meet with you
- Confirm the date and location of the meeting
- Let them know that you are looking forward to the conversation.
Use your intuition: some people are open and generous with their time and advice; some people are naturals at mentoring. Use your intuition to identify these individuals. They may be the ones to whom you will want to provide your 2 questions in advance, when you are thanking them and confirming your meeting. Or these may be individuals you will want to provide your list of capabilities to, “I look forward to our conversation on March 24 and I have included a short list of my capabilities and interests so that you may know a bit more about me”.
Step Seven – “Post Information Meeting”: Following up With Another Email
A follow-up to these meetings is important. Send a thank you e-mail the same day as your meeting (manners, manners!).
- In the e-mail highlight one point in the conversation that stood out for you and how it was helpful, useful or enlightening. This keeps you top of mind for that individual. It lets them know you were listening, and that the conversation and their perspective or advice were of value to you. I cannot emphasize enough the difference this makes in how you are both perceived and remembered.
- If the person you spoke to provided you with a name of someone to contact (growing the networking web), thank them for that contact and ask if you can use their name to introduce yourself to that person.
Step 8 - Summary Notes
After each meeting do a summary of the information you gathered.
Write out some notes, highlight certain bits of information that stood out for you.
- What did you learn?
- What new information did you gather about a certain industry, field or business?
- What “holes” did you discover in that field or profession: are there areas in the profession, industry, or company, not currently covered that could potentially be filled, could a position be created, are there positions you never knew existed?
- What new perspectives did you gain from this conversation and have these perspectives helped in developing your next steps?
This gathered information is important. You can roll these new perspectives and knowledge into subsequent information meetings and conversations.
At the start of career development or embarking on a career transition? Contact Britt-Mari for more information on career counseling sessions including preparation for information meetings. firstname.lastname@example.org