Originally published November 13, 2020 on BritishPandaChick Codes. I made tweaks to the original post so it works for The Practical Dev.
It is time for mission four of the CNC2018 Get a Job challenge. So far you've figured out what companies and roles you are interested in. Now you are networking and building your network.
The next step is scheduling informational interviews. Career experts often recommend job seekers schedule informational interviews since it is a way for them to get their one foot in the door with these companies. It is also a great way for job seekers to research and get a sense of what it is like working at these companies and what someone in a specific role does at these companies.
The objective of this mission is for job seekers to go through their network and decide which 5 connections they would like to have informational interviews with. In this post, I'm going to review all the tips Code Newbie recommends job seekers use to evaluate people they should consider for an informational interview and how to schedule one. By the end of this post, you'll have a list of 5 contacts and feel confident to start reaching out to each person on your list.
Mission Four Homework
The main goal for this mission is to create a list of 5 contacts you would like to reach out to and schedule an informational interview with. These are people who work at the companies you are interested in. Once you put together your list, you can start reaching out to each person on their list.
Code Newbie has an extra challenge for job seekers. They encourage them to schedule one informational interview for the next week. After reaching out to their contacts, job seekers share how their first message went.
Participants could tweet their results using the #CNC2018 hashtag. You can complete this mission by tweeting your results or sharing your results in the Code Newbie Facebook group. You can also share what happened with your first outreach in the comments below.
What items do I need?
First, you will need your list of 10 companies you created in mission one of the CNC2018 Get a Job Challenge. This spreadsheet had information about all 10 companies you were interested in. Before you start any of today's tasks, I recommend you take a few minutes to review your list and make any changes.
The other item you will need is a worksheet for your contacts. This is where you'll put down information for your 10 contacts. You will want to have one contact for each company on your list.
Once you've made your list, you can go back and highlight the five contacts you will reach out to first. Code Newbie provides participants with a template they can copy and use, but you can create your own using any software you like (i.e. Google Docs, Microsoft Word, Evernote). Once you have chosen the software you like to use, create a brand new document.
Inside this new document, you will set up your template for your five contacts. Copy and paste the following bullet points into your document. This is the information you will need to gather for each of your contacts on your list.
- Contact Name
- Company name
- Contact info
- What do you hope to get out of connecting with this person? Put any research, questions, and notes you'd like to talk about with this contact here.
Objective One: Identify one contact from each company you'd like to connect with.
Code Newbie wants participants to identify one contact for each company they put on their spreadsheet. Then you will want to find their contact information. There are a lot of places to find a person's contact information.
The best starting place is your network. See what people might know about certain contacts and asks for introductions. Some of the networks that can help you find these contacts are ones that attended the same school or Bootcamp. You can even ask people in your past roles if they know information about specific contacts.
The company's home page is a good place to find contact information about employees that work there. Code Newbie suggests job seekers use sites such as TenThousandCoffees.com. These sites let you find employees that have the jobs they are interested in. However, social media is going to be your friend in this mission since it will be easier to find your contacts on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Slack.
LinkedIn is especially helpful in completing this objective since it has features job seekers can use to see who everyone is connected to. Write down each of your contacts on your 5 Contacts worksheet you just created.
Objective Two: Select 5 contacts you want to reach out to first.
Now that you have a list of 10 contacts, it is time to go through your list and decide which contacts you want to reach out to first. You want to narrow down this list from 10 contacts to 5. Highlight these contacts on your contact worksheet.
Code Newbie recommends participants pick 5 contacts that are most likely to connect with you. In order to help you evaluate your list of contacts, Code Newbie put together a list of things you can use to help decide who would be the best to contact.
What kind of role does this person have?
Executives will be harder to schedule a meeting since they are already very busy. A person with an entry-level or junior role would be easier to schedule a meeting since they will have more time available and be enthusiastic to help.
What does their online activity look like?
Are they very active in the community? A person's online activity offers clues on how willing a person is able to help others. If someone is seen helping others online, they are more likely to take the time to meet with you. So look at a person's social media, activity in online groups, and blogs.
Objective 3: Prepare what you want to say.
Before you start reaching out to companies, it is time to start preparing your message or script for when you want to reach out. Code Newbie has put together scripts to help you structure your message, but you can put your own together. Your message doesn't need to be very long.
It just needs to be brief, clear, and specific. Code Newbie has broken down the formula to a perfect request that will get a response from your contacts.
- Mention your name
- Mention their name
- Why do you want to speak to them?
- Ask them for 20 minutes of your time.
Code Newbie encourages participants to schedule an in-person informational interview with their contacts. At the time of this post, the world is still in the middle of a pandemic so you can always offer the option of doing a 20-25 minute Zoom call instead.
The goal of this objective is to do the research. So take this time to learn about your contacts as much as possible and put together your questions first. Code Newbie encourages participants to do this because it will help keep your request specific. It also creates a good impression on your contacts since it shows you did your homework, making it more likely that they will want to respond and help.
Objective Four: Reach out to your contacts.
Now that your scripts are ready, it is time to start looking for ways to meet your top five contacts. Code Newbie offers a few suggestions job seekers can use to meet the contacts on their list. First, reach out to your network.
Your network might have people who can give you a warm introduction to those contacts or know people who work with the contacts on your list. This is the best method to start with first since introductions make it so much easier than cold e-mails. Once you've got an introduction to one of your top five contacts, send them an e-mail using your scripts you put together in the last objective.
Many people put their e-mail on their personal website, LinkedIn, or Github. If you can't find your contact's e-mail address, send them a direct message on social media or through groups and organizations you are a part of. Before you send a message to your contacts on social media, make sure you check the requirements platforms have about direct messages.
Objective Five: Schedule 3 informational interviews.
After you sent your messages, it is time to wait for responses and schedule your informational interviews. Code Newbie wants students to try setting 3 informational interviews with at least one for next week. The key to scheduling is to make things as easy as possible for your contacts.
This means offering a few dates and times ready and a location in mind. Once you and your contact have agreed upon these details, you can send them a calendar invite. If you are doing a Zoom call or a Google Hangouts meeting, you will want to send your contacts a link for the meeting.
Avoid saying things like "I'm available whenever". This isn't helpful and sets the wrong impression on the contact. It puts the burden on the contact to do everything. Instead, you will want to say something like "I'm available whenever! How's next Thursday afternoon, maybe 3 p.m. EST at midtown?"
What if I get a rejection e-mail?
Don't be hard on yourself and remind yourself it isn't personal. Just move onto the next person on your list or try someone else in their department. Although your contact might not be able to meet with you, they might recommend someone else that might be able to meet with you.
Scheduling informational interviews is a numbers game. There will be lots of rejections along the way and people might not want to speak with you. So don't give up and keep trying. Eventually, you'll find people who can meet up with you.
What if I don't hear from my contact?
It is OK if you don't get a response the first time. So don't worry! There's a lot of reasons why a person might not respond to your message.
Code Newbie recommends waiting 3-4 days for a response. Once that time has passed, then you can send them a quick follow-up e-mail. If you aren't sure how to structure your message, you can use the sample scripts below for help.
Not sure what to structure your message? Code Newbie has put together a few scripts you can use to help you structure your message and request to your contacts. Use these scripts as a starting point then customize them using the information from your contact worksheet. In the end, you will want your final script to be straightforward and to the point as possible.
1. "I'm a big fan!"
“Hi [name], I’m [name], a [current job] and I’m transitioning into the tech industry. I saw that you [name their role or a project they have mentioned on social media] and I’m interested in hearing more about [some specific topic you’d like to discuss]. Would you be able to meet with me for coffee? I’m sure you’re busy, so even 20 minutes would be appreciated.”
2. "I've done my research"
“Hi [name], I’m [name], a [current job] and I’m working towards [your career goal]. I’ve been reading up on [research you’ve done that's related to your request] and wanted to connect with you about [topic you hope to discuss with them]. Would you be up for coffee sometime in the next few weeks? I’d really appreciate it!”
3. "I'm stuck."
“Hi [name], I’m [name], a [current job] and I’m hoping to [your career goal]. I’ve been trying to figure out [career-related problem or question you hope to discuss with them] and I’ve been having a really tough time. I was hoping you might give me some insight on [the topic they can help you with]. Are you available for coffee sometime in the next few weeks? I’d really appreciate your help.”
4. "I'm curious about your work"
“Hi [name], I’m [name], a [current job] in [city]. I’m reaching out because I’m researching careers in [desired role or department] and would love to learn more about your role. Would you be able to meet with me for coffee? I’m sure you’re busy, so even 20 minutes would be appreciated."
5. Follow Up (reply to your first email, don't send a new email)
“Hi [name], I just wanted to follow up on this. Any chance you’re available to connect next week? If you prefer a quick phone conversation, even 20 minutes would be appreciated. Thank you!”
Time for some self-care!
The thought of reaching out to your contacts can sound quite scary and can make job seekers feel very stressed. One of the ways to help you relax is aromatherapy. Certain scents are able to change one's mood.
Code Newbie suggests participants try scented oils in a bath to get the benefits of aromatherapy. Just use a few drops of essentials in your bath to set the aromatic mood. Some oils that are great for stress relief are lavender, lemon, and tea tree.
If you want extra benefits, you can add a spoonful of coconut oil to your bath. The coconut oil will melt in the water and coat your skin so it will be hydrated. Epsom salts are another item you can use in your bath if you struggle with any aches and pains. If you want more bath hacking ideas, Code Newbie provides a link to a BuzzFeed article with more tips you can use.
That's a wrap on mission four of the Get a Job challenge. How did it go reaching out to your first client? Share your experience in the comments of this blog post or in the Code Newbie Facebook group. You can also describe your experience on Twitter using the hashtag #CNC2018.
If you need help at any time during this mission, reach out to Code Newbie. You can send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also tweet your questions to Code Newbie on Twitter or share them in the Code Newbie Facebook group.
Now that you have some informational interview schedule, it is time to talk about the actual interview itself. The next mission of the CNC2018 Get a Job Challenge is talking about actually meeting your contacts.
This mission will help you prepare for these interviews and what questions you need to ask. It will also share resources and strategies you can use to create the best informational interview experience that doesn't just give you the information you need but leaves a great impression on your contacts.