So you’ve just had an awesome informational meeting with an executive at a company you’re very interested in working for and feel like this person could be the key to helping you move forward in your career. This may be true — if you’ve made a great impression, he’s likely to want to help you. But you’ll only see the benefits from an informational interview if you take the time to follow up! Don’t expect that you’re going to be top of mind for this executive at all times after leaving the room — unless you stay in contact, he’s likely to forget about you. After all, he’s busy worrying about his own job. Here are three steps you can take to stay on the radar:
1. Send a thank you note. This should go without saying, but, just as you would in a regular interview, you should send a thank you note to the person you met within 24 hoursof leaving his office. It shows that you’re grateful and understand professional etiquette, which will go a long way.
2. Turn your informational into another one. The person you're meeting with likely has other connections that could help you build your network, and if you play your cards right, you can get an introduction. Sometimes, he'll easily offer to introduce you, but even if that doesn't happen, you can still parlay one meeting into another. Ask a question about a department or position you're interested in that's outside of his department, and he might say something along the lines of, “Oh you should meet with Joe in our current series group at some point.” But your contact simply suggesting the next meeting isn't enough; it's on you to make it happen. BE SURE to include a reminder in your thank you email — something like, “You mentioned during our meeting that I should meet with Joe in the current series group — would it be possible for you to put me in touch with him?” If you forget to ask this question, the executive will probably forget to make the introduction, and even if he remembers, your lack of follow up will indicate that meeting this new person actually isn't all that important to you. And if you don't get the chance to ask for another connection, or the executive doesn't suggest anyone during the meeting, all is not lost. Simply include a polite request in your thank you note — for example, “I learned a lot from our conversation today, and I'm curious about other parts of the company — is there someone in the current series group that it would be possible for me to meet with?” An alternate strategy: Save this question for a couple of weeks, and then reach out — you’ll get the added benefit of reminding your original contact that you exist and want to stay in touch.
3. Check in regularly. You don’t want to be emailing your contact from an informational interview every week, but checking in every month or two is a great idea. One tip: Look out for news articles about that person’s company, and send a congratulatory email. Then, you can include an update about what’s going on with you and where you are in the job search. The holidays provide another great excuse to send an email that doesn’t appear to have an agenda. You don’t want to be constantly asking for help with the job hunt, but it’s good to let people know you're still looking. And then, once you land the perfect job, share your exciting news with all the new contacts that have helped you along the way — they’ll be happy to hear about it!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan