Networking: Informational Interviews and Email Etiquette
What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is an opportunity for you to ask questions of an alum or a professional in your field of interest. These interviews are not directly used to find jobs or internships but are instead ways to gather information and gain insight into life after Earlham.
Informational interviews can help you find out more about your field of interest, learn about a certain company or organization, or understand a different perspective.
What should I ask in an informational interview?
Informational interviews are all about making connections and broadening your knowledge. Some potential questions include:
- Could you tell me about your career path?
- What was your first job out of Earlham or after college?
- What does a typical workday look like for you?
- What advice do you have for someone starting out in your field?
How do I find someone to interview?
Most people are open and willing to talk about their careers with young professionals. Reach out through your network of family and friends to find people working in your field of interest. You can also contact someone at a specific organization or company in which you’re interested. If you would like to connect with alumni, visit the CCE to learn about possible connections.
If you are looking to make a connection through email or social media, send a short and professional email to a person who works in a field or organization in which you are interested. In the email, make sure you:
- Include your name, college that you are attending, and major.
- Explain why you are interested in connecting with them (to ask for their advice for a young professional and to learn about their career path).
- Ask them for twenty minutes of their time, either to meet for coffee (locally) or to have a brief phone conversation at a time of their convenience.
- Thank them for their time and consideration.
Above all, be courteous and curious.
Email can be a great way to communicate with potential contacts in your field of interest–as long as your email doesn’t come across in a negative light. Follow some of these quick tips to make sure your email etiquette is up to par.
- Use a professional email address. Avoid using email handles like “partygirl92” or “batman56.” Create a professional email, ideally using your name as the handle. Your Earlham email is also appropriate for professional settings. You can always set up email forwarding so you don’t have to check multiple email accounts.
- Use a professional greeting and closing. Although we are all on a first-name basis at Earlham, it’s still a good idea to be professional and courteous in email. Don’t start your email with “Hey.” Sign off by using a phrase like “Sincerely,” “All the best,” or “Thank you.”
- Be clear and concise. This applies to both the subject line and the body of the email. Create a subject line which directly refers to the subject of your email. In the body, make sure your language is clear and concise while still being polite. While you shouldn’t use abbreviations or texting language (LOL, TTYL, etc.), you also don’t want to lose your reader’s attention by being too wordy or beating around the bush.
- Be polite. Saying “please” and “thank you” goes a long way, especially when you are asking something of someone. Reread your email before sending, paying attention to the tone. Could someone reading this email take it the wrong way? Remember that your readers will not have your tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures to help them understand your meaning. Humor and sarcasm are especially hard to relay through email.
- Fill in the “To” field last. Avoid sending an email before it’s finished by leaving the “To” field blank until you’re ready to send. Remember, once an email has been sent, you can’t get it back–and you also can’t control who may receive it as a forward. This is a good point to remember before sending what could be perceived as negative communication. Always make sure the words you send out into the world reflect a positive and professional image of you.
Sample Networking Email
Subject: Career Advice for an Earlhamite
Dear Mr. Darwin,
My name is Jane Doe, and I am a second-year student majoring in biology at Earlham College. I am interested in a career in biology and research, and my Career Coach suggested I contact you. I understand that your research involves the evolution of finches, a subject I am also interested in studying.
It would be very helpful to speak with someone who currently does the work which I would someday hope to pursue. I’m interested in learning about the steps you took to become a researcher, as well as any career guidance you might be able to offer. Would you be willing to have a 20-30 minute phone conversation on this subject?
Thank you for your time and consideration.