This 8-step guide is designed to help you organize and conduct information meetings.
This is a guide. As you become more practised with these types of meetings and conversations, the way you organize and experience them should become increasingly personalized and organic.
Why do Information Meetings?
A few good reasons…
Information meetings can offer insights and perspectives about the job market from a wider variety of people.
While labor market research, career fairs, and job postings offer their own important insights into the job market, information meetings offer lived experience and personal perspectives from within a job or field. They offer opportunities to ask creative questions, and the potential to gain further referrals.
These conversations will widen your knowledge of the hidden job market, revealing any potential gaps (that could be filled!).
These types of meetings are good opportunities for you to practice verbally articulating your value by highlighting and connecting some of your own experiences to your current value and expertise.
These conversations allow more room to describe what you are interested in, how your experiences have shaped some of your skills, what you would like to learn or develop further in your professional life, and where you would like to contribute your time and talents.
Conversation often facilitates creative brainstorming. Hearing someone else’s ideas, perspectives, and insights is invaluable to activating your own creativity
And finally, information meetings are far less stressful than job interviews!
Step One – Who to reach out to
Start compiling a list of the people you would like to speak with. It can help to start with people you know. You will feel more comfortable with them.
You could draw from family, friends of family, former teachers, people you have worked with and/or people you have met through other professional connections. It is surprising how many connections we have within our own circle and how helpful a conversation with them can be.
Once you have had several information meetings, you can expand your list and reach out to people you do not know personally but whose specific work, professional area or experiences are of interest to you.
Very often during an information meeting, the person you are speaking with will suggest someone you could potentially contact for yet another information meeting. Take advantage of these suggestions or even the specific referrals your contacts make as this will help you to develop a wider network.
Step Two – Why do I want to speak with this person?
For each person on your list, write out the specific reason(s) you would like to have a conversation with them. For example, it might be that person’s role and expertise in a specific field or profession; it might be that individual’s professional journey, the trajectory of their career; or it might focus on someone’s perspective or broad knowledge of a particular industry.
Your aim is to encourage a conversation about THEIR unique expertise, interests, perspective, knowledge, opinions, and talents.
Step Three – Constructing the email invitation
Once you have a list of potential people and the reasons you want to have a conversation with them, it is time to send out email invitations.
An e-mail requesting an information meeting should be polite, genuine, and well organized.
Include the following as you construct your invitation:
- Introduce yourself.
- How you came across their name.
- Why you are reaching out to them and requesting an information meeting – this is where you refer to their specific expertise, experiences or how their perspective would be very useful to you as you build a network, craft your career goals, and/or design your next professional steps (go back to your notes on WHY in step 2 to guide you).
- Ask if they are available to meet (offer options of in person or via Zoom, for example) for a brief information meeting of about 20 – 30 minutes.
- A polite ending, “I look forward to hearing from you” …. and include your contact details.
Getting a consistent response to these emails takes time. Be patient and be consistent in the number of requests you send out per week.
Step Four – The preparation of 2 questions
Information meetings typically range from 20 – 45 minutes. Many people are happy to offer their time when asked specific questions. Your task is to respect their time by keeping the meeting tightly organized: you want to gather information.
To prepare you should create and customize 2 questions that relate to the specific person you will be meeting with.
Helpful hint: avoid broad questions such as, “what opportunities are available in this field” or “why did you choose this field”? Broad questions will often elicit very general answers and your aim is to invite the opposite – specific information and unique perspectives.
As you create your questions, keep the following in mind:
- Go over your notes from Step 2, what specific expertise, talent, knowledge, or perspective does this individual have and what would you like to know more about? The tighter the question, the more information you will get.
- Give your questions some personal context – this enables the person you are speaking with to fine tune their answer and provide you with information that is relevant and useful.
Example: Suppose you are developing a career path, or you are embarking on a career transition, and you have an interest in both stage management and business.
If your information meeting is with someone in theatre management, you would want to preface your questions with some context. Tell this person why the combination of stage management and business is of interest to you, or if you already have experience, how you combined these two interests and the value you believe it brought to the theatre environment. You could further illustrate this point with a professional experience you have had.
One of your questions might focus on whether there are specific roles/positions within theatre management that rely on business perspectives or the application of specific business models. Other questions might be, how might your interests in both business and theatre translate into a role in the operating of a theatre? Do they know of anyone on the business side in the theatre community with whom you could speak?
Step Five – Preparing 2 – 3 personal points
Organize 2 – 3 points you would like the person you are meeting with to know about you. While you are gathering information you also want these meetings to evolve towards a more organic conversation (you want some spontaneous brainstorming).
Remember, you are not asking for a job and you are not interviewing. Conversation (versus job interviews) gives you far more room to personalize your experiences, interests, aspirations, goals, expertise, education, natural and learned skills (to date), and what you want to develop further. Conversation allows you to share the narrative of your career journey.
Step Six – Getting a response and follow-up e-mails
When you receive a positive response to your invitation let good manners be your guide!
- Send an e-mail thanking them for agreeing to meet with you.
- Confirm the date and location of the meeting (whether online or in person).
- Let them know that you are looking forward to the conversation.
Use your intuition: some people are open and generous with their time and advice; some people are naturals at mentoring and understand how useful information meetings can be. Use your intuition to identify these individuals. These may be the ones to whom you will want to provide your 2 questions in advance, when you are confirming your meeting and thanking them for agreeing to meet. Or these may be individuals to whom you want to provide a short profile, or list of capabilities ahead of the meeting. For example, “I look forward to our conversation and I have included a profile and short list of my capabilities and interests so that you may know a bit more about me.” This may not be appropriate for all your contacts so once again, use your intuition.
Step Seven – Post-information meeting: following up with another email
A follow-up to these meetings is important. Send a thank you e-mail the same day as your meeting.
- This e-mail should highlight one point from the conversation that stood out for you and how it was helpful, useful, or enlightening. This keeps you top of mind for that individual. It lets them know you were listening, and that the conversation and their perspective or advice were of value to you. I cannot emphasize enough the difference this makes in how you are both perceived and remembered.
- If the person you spoke to provided you with a name of someone to contact, thank them and ask if you can use their name to introduce yourself when contacting that person.
Step 8 – Summary notes
After each meeting do an analysis and summary of the information you gathered.
Write out some notes, highlight certain bits of information that stood out for you.
- What did you learn?
- What new information did you gather about a certain industry, field, or business?
- Get creative, did you discover any “gaps” in a field or profession: are there areas in the profession, industry, or company, not currently covered that could potentially be filled, could a position be created, are there positions you never knew existed?
- What new perspectives did you gain from this conversation? How can you integrate these perspectives into your strategies for subsequent information meetings and conversations? Or how might this gathered information help you to create a specific strategy going forward?
Needing more assistance or guidance with information meetings? Contact Canvas Career Counselling at firstname.lastname@example.org