Author: Larry Medina (Head of Career Services, Alumni & Corporate Relations) at ESSEC Asia-Pacific
If I had one piece of advice for my younger self, it would be to network for information earlier in my career.
Through the years, I have had students tell me that they are interested in consulting, financial services, and other roles without understanding their target industries. Networking for information is an important part of job searches and overall career management.
Obviously, Google searches, Glassdoor posts, and the internet are packed with information about all industries and roles. However, a conversation with someone in a particular position can be invaluable.
Every time I sit down for coffee with someone I do not know well, I am constantly amazed that I walk away with new knowledge.
Mine for sources
If you are exploring certain industries and roles, start to approach the professionals from those domains. Ask your friends and classmates to recommend. Search on LinkedIn, especially for alumni in your target industries.
For introverts, reaching out to strangers can be intimidating. Remember that the worst-case scenario is that the other party will not respond or politely decline, which is a reasonably painless outcome.
Remember that some people will never turn down a free cup of coffee or tea. You will most likely be surprised at the number of positive responses.
Define your questions
When you meet someone for a coffee chat, there are four questions you can ask until you get a bit more comfortable to explore other queries.
The questions are: Can you please tell me more about your job and what you do daily? What do you like the most about the job? Is there anything you do not like about your job? So nice to talk with you. Is there anyone else that you recommend I should talk to?
For most people, they can talk 15 to 30 minutes answering these four questions. Please remember that you never ask for a job unless they lead the conversation in that direction. These exchanges are meant to get information and to build a relationship with someone in the industry.
Refine your interest
After having three to four professionals in your target industry, the information gathered will either confirm your interest or push you to focus elsewhere.
You will be loaded with plenty of inside information and industry-specific language that you can use during any future interviews.
And, in some instances, you will have found a supporter or friend that could last the rest of your career.
To recap, networking for information is a critical part of any job search and overall career management.
It will help you learn significantly more about any industry or role, which will help you fine-tune the direction you would like to go.
It will help ensure that your target aligns with who you are. Now, please have a cup of coffee or tea with a professional in one of your target companies.
Larry Medina is the Head of Career Services, Alumni & Corporate Relations at ESSEC Asia-Pacific Business School. For more career tips, follow #careertipswithlarry. Read previous tips from this series.