April 25, 2011
How to do an informational interview Keith Ferrazzi-style
If there is one person in the world who can teach you about relationships, it's Keith Ferrazzi, referred to by Inc. magazine as one of the worlds' most "connected" individuals.
One of the biggest regrets I have in my career is not picking up his best-selling book "Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time" sooner. When I was working at Microsoft, I saw the orange book jacket and thought to myself, "I don't have enough money to entertain every day, so that book probably isn't right for me."
Later, when I was working at Expedia and I finally witnessed how relationships were translating into direct career promotions, I rushed back to the bookstore and grabbed the book. Life as I knew it would never be the same.
I had an opportunity to interview Keith about how to do a successful informational interview, which seems to be the biggest hurdle for my clients and readers.
First, we need to understand Keith's philosophy before diving into his actual tips. He suggests that we need to build relationships, not seek transactions. Transactions -- scratching each other's back, giving to get -- are what most people think networking means, and it's what makes people the most uncomfortable about networking. Using Keith's style, however, you step into a different mindset.
Discovering your passion
"Use the process of being in transition to find your passion. Use finding your passion as a step to building your network," suggests Keith. "The process of building a network is a process of being generous and serving others," says Keith.
One might ask, "How is searching for my passion being generous to others?" Elevating someone and telling them, "Your work is directly shaping the decisions of my life and, for that reason, I'm indebted to you," is quite generous.
Keith cautions against fake flattery and instead suggests we do our research and think about authentic reasons that people are making a difference in our lives.
One of the first lessons Keith teaches is to ask yourself: "What is the passion and mission I seek to pursue for the rest of my life?"
A great place to start answering that question is to talk to friends, colleagues and folks in lower-level positions at companies. It's a journey, not a thirty-minute exercise. When Keith left his employment at Starwood Hotels, he started talking to his friends and colleagues about what he wanted to do next. "During the conversation, I would rule out 90 percent of things I thought I wanted to do, but quickly discovered that they weren't my passion," says Keith.
Once you come up with a narrow list and are more focused, it's time to start talking to the folks in higher-level positions.
The Informational Interview
Keith recommends to his students that they make a list of 25 contacts who would be most influential in the new career direction they have decided to pursue.
When you sit down with these people, you want to have the basics figured out. Going into the room, saying, "I'm unemployed and need a job, but I don't know what I want or exactly how you can help me," is a waste of time for both of you.
Instead, provided you've generated enough credibility and generosity first, it's great if you can say something specific along the lines of, "I'm interested in these three firms and would love your help in meeting folks within these companies who might help me narrow my decision."
When someone gives you advice, they're investing in you. At first, the dividend they receive is your appreciation and gratitude, but the mid-term payout is when you call them a week later and let them know how you used the advice they gave you and the difference that it made and how it benefited you.
From experience, I remember that when I followed the advice of my mentors, they wanted to do more. Keith describes it like this: When your "stock price is low," the equity that you build with your investor becomes so strong that they end up doubling their investment in you.
The question most people have is how do I get in front of these folks so I can ask for their advice?
Keith recommends doing research on the company, then the individual, and going one step further to researching the personal side of that individual. Then, using this information, find a way to authentically like that person.
Keith was meeting with a state governor and remembered reading how frugal the governor's parents were and how the governor's mother washed aluminum foil. That brought back memories for Keith, and he was able to use that information to connect deeply. A 30-minute meeting turned into a personal dinner invitation to the governor's home.
More about Keith
If you'd like to learn more about Keith and his philosophies, I strongly urge you to pick up "Never Eat Alone" or his other title, "Who's Got Your Back: The Breakthrough Program to Build Deep, Trusting Relationships That Create Success -- and Won't Let You Fail."
If you're serious about transforming your career, consider enrolling at his Relationship Masters Academy, an online school teaching professionals and businesses how to authentically build relationships to create success.
Remember, as I've shared before: 85 percent of all positions in Seattle are filled by word-of-mouth. Happy connecting!
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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