University of Minnesota
Office of Human Resources
http://www.umn.edu/ohr
612-625-2016

Networking

Networking is important in helping you find the most up-to-date, personal and in-depth information about jobs, careers and departments. Whether you need more information about job opportunities, career enhancement or other University cultures, connecting with other employees is critical.

Networking can provide you with facts about day-to-day job responsibilities, educational and experiential requirements, and essential qualifications for different careers. It can also provide you with "insider information," the personal perspectives of employees who work in the jobs, careers or departments you are considering.

What Is Networking?

Networking is about building or maintaining relationships. It can take many forms, such as meeting and getting to know colleagues at conferences, serving on committees, taking classes, volunteering or information interviewing. Whatever form, the purpose of networking is to:

  • Meet people who have information and connections useful to your career decision-making and goals.
  • Maintain connections through your current work contacts and/or by initiating phone calls, emails, meetings or lunches with specific individuals who you don't usually see.

Kinds of Information Interviews

One popular form of effective networking is requesting an information interview. An information interview is a formal conversation that you request to get more information about a possible new career, department, or potential opportunities that fit your skills, interests and experiences. There are three types of information interviews, information only , advice and suggestions and job prospecting .

In the information only interview , you ask for information because you are interested in more information about the job, career field or department. You will ask iabout the education/training required, the nature of entry level jobs, and the outlook for the future. You may also want more information about the work performed in the field and common work culture and environment. In this type of information interview, you need only find someone currently working in that job or someone who was recently working in that job.

Common questions for an information only interview are as follows:

  • How long have you been in this position?
  • What is a typical day like?
  • What do you like most and least about working in this department or in this job?
  • What kinds of education and training are most helpful/required?
  • How did you get into this job?
  • What are the entry-level positions in this career?
  • Networking (cont.)
  • What is the salary range?
  • How difficult/competitive is this job/career?
  • Are there other people you can suggest that I talk to?

You use an advice and suggestions information interview to find out more about the fit between your background and a job or career that you have decided you have interest in. To have a successful advice and suggestions interview you need to find someone who knows what credentials, qualifications, education and experience are most sought after. Usually, this sort of person has been in the job for many years or is the supervisor of someone in a similar position.

When you meet with the person, bring a completed application or resume with you. Think about what questions you have in advance. Here are some sample questions:

  • What kinds of education and experience do top candidates have in this field?
  • What kinds of classes or workshop do you suggest that I take to better prepare me for this career or job?
  • What kinds of experience do you suggest that I get before applying for this sort of job?
  • How do you suggest that I get this experience?
  • Can you look at my resume/application and give me your feedback? Does this show me to be a qualified candidate?
  • What advice would you give to candidates who want to enter this job/career?

The third kind of information interview is the job prospecting information interview . In this form, you use the interview to uncover possible job leads. You can do this when you find a job posted in the Job Center and want to find out more about it or you are interested in a particular department and want to know if they anticipate any openings in the future.

Questions you might ask include:

  • Can you tell me more about this job or this particular requirement?
  • What kind of candidate would be ideal for this position?
  • Is this a new position? If so, what prompted it to be created?
  • What will make a candidate most successful in this position?
  • Who else/what other positions will this person work with most closely?
  • Is there an internal candidate?

If you are meeting with a department where there is no job posting, read anything you can about the department ahead of time. Formulate questions about what kinds of jobs exist in the department and how they might match your qualifications. Some questions include:

  • What are the mission and goals of this department?
  • What kind of work is performed here?
  • What are the future plans/goals? What organizational needs do you expect to face?
  • What are the biggest challenges your department faces?
  • What is most exciting about working here?
  • How might my skills and experiences fit in?
  • What kinds of openings (if any) do you anticipate in the future?
  • May I check back with you on occasion to see if openings may occur? What kind of time frame would work best?