As a student, it is hard to imagine the realities of this “real world” everyone keeps talking about. A great peek into this life and a way to gain some insights is by setting up and participating in informational interviews.
My technique uses a particular formula: Twitter+Google+Linkedin (explained below)
I fully believe that informational interviews are a win-win for everyone involved. Personally, I have participated in 3 (two for professional purposes, and one for my own curiosity). And I know I should be doing a helluva lot more! I am learning that the key to success in this industry is networking and encourage everyone to go to professional development events and either find or make opportunities to get involved.
For the interviewee (in other words, the professional contact being sought out) it benefits the organization they represent by promoting all of their wonderful clients, achievements, and the many benefits of working for that organization. It can be used as an indirect recruitment tool to gain interest from new practitioners who are deciding where to work. In other words: it builds a buzz.
For me, the soon-to-be graduate of the Public Relations Post Graduate certificate at Mohawk, it serves as more than just learning about that company (which is valuable): it acts as a way to practice interviews, promote myself as a practitioner, learn a personal perspective of (in my case) agency lifestyles and also, provides material to blog about.
I am a big believer in professional development and continuing education. Informational interviews are a great way to find out if the values of the company you are applying for align with your own. Informational interviews are a way to broaden ones network, find out about unadvertised opportunities and continually learn what being a Public Relations practitioner is all about.
As mentioned above, I do have my own way about arranging them. I have my sights set on working in an agency for several reasons, but for the most part, as a way to hone the skills I am gaining from my education in an envirnment where they are in constant demand.
Firstly, I check Twitter to see who is following whom. If I see a particular organization or successful individual is following someone, that is a good indication I should be following them too. Sometimes I will simply type in “PR” to the Twitter search bar in order to find a new agency to follow. Next, I try to research as much as possible using the most accessible and user friendly tool I know: Google. And without prejudice, I try to find individuals on LinkedIn who are part of that organization and see if there is an opportunity to learn even more about the organization they work for.
From the organization’s perspective, I think informational interviews show initiative and dedication to the industry. It is important for individuals, especially at this stage in the game of learning about the industry, to show they are capable, interested, and determined to make contact and often all it takes is a quick digital note to make that first contact.
To those like myself who are just starting out, get networking!
For those in the industry who accept the opportunity to share: thank you! Your experience, advice and insight will be appreciated by those who seek you out.