Do you ever wonder how a conversation could be your ticket to your dream job? Let’s demystify this together with Mac Prichard, host of the Find Your Dream Job podcast, who joins us today to talk about the power of informational interviews. Mac, who once found himself on the brink of cashing his last unemployment check, shares his journey back to his career track and the significant role his network played in his comeback.
Together, we dissect the anatomy of a successful informational interview. We discuss how to infuse your introduction with your goals, craft questions that reveal valuable insights, and use introductions to turbocharge your job search. We also delve into the art of expressing your reasons for seeking a meeting and maximizing the potential of referrals. But it doesn't stop at interviews; we also steer you through the job boards labyrinth, underscore the magic of building relationships, and coach you on proactive outreach to potential employers.
As we wrap up, we delve into the building blocks of mid-career success. Whether it’s about creating meaningful connections, mastering the art of follow-up after networking events, or conversing with industry bigwigs, we got you covered. So, tune in, and let Mack and I guide you through the intricate maze of job hunting and career progression. The journey to your dream job begins with a simple conversation; let's start that conversation today.
Listen to me on the Find Your Dream Job Podcast with Mac Prichard
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Finding your dream job doesn't have to be complicated, but it can seem that way when you've been applying for jobs and networking and aren't getting the results you desire. Today you're going to hear my conversation with Mac Prichard, the host of the Find your Dream Job podcast. Mac's going to share three valuable tips on how to use informational interviews to help you find your dream job and build a valuable network that will serve you now and later in your career. Let's get started. Hello, my friends, this is episode 168 of the Mid-Career GPS podcast. I'm your host, John Neral. I help mid-career professionals who feel stuck, undervalued and underutilized show up to find a job they love, or love the job they have, by using my proven four-step formula. Last week, I shared a free resource designed to help you stretch toward whatever professional goals you have upcoming, and if your career isn't progressing as well as you'd like, it might be time to consider implementing a stretch goal that will help move your career toward whatever is. Next, you can visit my website at johnneral. com/resources to get your free copy of 10 self-coaching questions to help you achieve your stretch goal. And let me help you start building your mid-career GPS right now. I'm honored to bring you this conversation today. Mac Prichard is a recruitment and career expert, podcaster, connector, communication strategist and business owner based in Portland, oregon. His career and business are built on his commitment to service relationships and community building. He owns and operates MaxList, a certified B corporation that serves employers and job seekers in Oregon and Washington. Maxlist, which was founded in 2001, has evolved into one-of-a-kind regional job board in career community and Mac hosts the top-rated weekly career advice podcast, find your Dream Job, which serves as the platform to bring together passionate job seekers and great employers to make work more rewarding for everyone. About a year ago, I had an opportunity to be a guest on Mac's show. It is episode 359, and I'll link up to it in the show notes so you can check it out and make sure to follow and subscribe to Mac's podcast as well. And additionally, I'm honored for the second consecutive year to be listed in Mac's guide to top-rated career podcasts. I'll link that up in the show notes as well because, while I am honored that you listen to my show and I am very grateful you come back every week there are some other fantastic podcasts that are out there as you think about your own career and leadership development, and you can check Mac's List guide to the top-rated career podcast for 2023 in the show notes as well. You're going to want to pull out a piece of paper, take some notes, jot down some ideas. Please don't do this while you're driving, but you're going to definitely want to take some notes Because Mac and I talk about all things related to informational interviews and it is my pleasure to introduce you to Mac Prichard.Mac Prichard:
Hi, my name is Mac Prichard. I'm the owner of Mac's List and it is a regional job board in the Pacific Northwest. We serve employers and job seekers in Oregon and Washington state. We provide lots of free content, john, about how to look for work and how to hire smarter including articles, career advice, podcasts, books and online courses, and because of that content, we attract visitors from all over the United States and even outside the country.John Neral:
And I would be remissed, Mac, if we didn't also mention your incredibly wonderful podcast, Find your Dream job, that I know so many people listen to as well. So thank you for all that work too.Mac Prichard:
Well, thank you, you're welcome, and our mission, as you know, john, is to make hiring more human. We're driven by a strong sense of service, and the podcast is central to that. It's about helping people get the tools they need to find the work they want.John Neral:
Yes, absolutely. And so, Mac, as the mid-career GPS podcast, one of the things I so enjoy asking my guests is to define or share with us what their mid-career moment was. So, in other words, what was the thing that happened to you at mid-career that you felt was a pivot or a transition that really helped elevate or take your career to where it is now?Mac Prichard:
Several come to mind, but I think the most important one was in my early 30s. I had the second of two long periods of unemployment, john, and this happened after I relocated to Oregon, after living and working on the East Coast for 11 years, and I came within one check of cashing that last unemployment check. In Oregon you get 30 checks before the money runs out. So that was a pivotal moment for me in my career because it reminded me of some lessons I had learned in my 20s, but I think I'm a slow learner. Sometimes I had to relearn them, and I think the most important lesson was the importance of learning job search skills, followed by the importance of serving your network, because I think when people double down on learning job search skills they can have not always, but they can often avoid these long periods of unemployment, but, most importantly, they are able to find not only their next job faster and easier, but they're going to have a more engaging and satisfying career, and knowing how to look for work is central to that. But also equally important is knowing how to both create and serve a network that can help you throughout your career. And after some struggles, I relearn those lessons and I eventually found a great job in Oregon State government that within a year led to a position in the governor's office and a succession of positions working for big state agencies as a spokesperson and eventually founded my own public relations career. But along the way, in order to serve my network, I was sharing job postings and that eventually led to me creating the career side of run. Today, maxlessorg and a job board is a big part of what we do to help people here.John Neral:
I sincerely appreciate how you talk about serving your network, because those three words to me kind of make the hair on my arm stand up a little bit. Right, because we show up from this place of value and service to build these kind of relationships. When you are, when you're talking to people, when you're working with them or you're helping them kind of figure out what that next job is going to be, how do you break down for them some concrete or tangible examples about what it means to serve your network?Mac Prichard:
Well, I think it comes back to what are people's needs and how can you help them. And this doesn't mean that you're in the business of being a career coach or a one-person social service agency. But when you can be of service to others, you have a chance not only to help others, but eventually and you have to do this without any expectation of getting something in return but eventually you'll be amazed at how much you get in return. So concrete examples of how to be of service to your network include common steps. I think we've all done this at different times Meeting someone for coffee or having a meeting virtually in a Zoom room, or maybe even an old-fashioned in real life office situation where people come to you to talk about their interest in the work you do, the career you have, or they're doing a job search and they're looking for answers to practical questions related to their search. If you make time to do that on a regular basis, you'll be not only helping a lot of people, but you'll be creating and growing your own network. I think it's serving your network also means volunteering in the community, especially in your professional field. We all have some organization, whatever our occupation, that brings together people who do the work each of us does. If you go to those monthly lunches or the annual conference and you participate and ask questions and even volunteer, that's another way of serving your network. Again, there are many benefits to that as well. You shouldn't do it for the benefits, but it will connect you with others in your field, particularly the leaders. If you're volunteering, perhaps to organize an event or do a particular project, people will see what you do and they'll think of you when opportunities come up in your profession. Those are a few examples of how you can concretely be of service to your network and some of the benefits that can come back to you professionally. What do you do that?John Neral:
So well said, Mac. I liked your point earlier as well about how we give and it just comes back to us more than we ever thought we think about how we cultivate and build those relationships. I had someone one time kind of refer to it as networking is like you put all these seeds in the ground and you just watch them sprout up and all of a sudden you have this amazing flower bed of people you know you can reach out to at any point in time if you need something, but they also know they can come to you. And as we think about this concept of networking and building these kind of relationships, one of the things you and I specifically talked about leading up to today's conversation was about an informational interview and from the standpoint of if somebody is actively job seeking or someone is just looking to build their network and build their relationships. So where I want to start with you today is define for us what is an informational interview to you?Mac Prichard:
An informational interview is a business meeting and like if you call it like any business meeting, you're in charge. That means that you're responsible for identifying the outcomes you want from the conversation as well as setting the agenda for the informational interview. And I think if you think of it as a business meeting, it gets a whole lot easier to both to understand how to run the conversation and it also gets easier to understand how you measure success. An informational interview is not John getting together for coffee. Those sometimes informational interviews can happen in coffee shops, or coffee might be served if you're meeting someone in their old fashioned office. It's not about picking someone's brain. It's about having a focused conversation with identifiable outcomes. I'd be happy to walk you through what a good informational interview looks like and the parts that go into that conversation, and what success looks like as well.John Neral:
I would love for you to do that for us. So what are the things that make up a successful informational interview?Mac Prichard:
A good informational interview has three parts and you can accomplish this in 20, 30 minutes max. The first part is you meet with someone and you identify, you share your goal and you tell a little bit about your own background, and so the person you're speaking with understands who you are, what you want. Usually you're seeing someone who are a topic related to your job search and so they, if you do that, share your story and explain why you're there and what you hope to get from the conversation, and you can do that in two to three minutes. You can have a much more productive conversation. The second part is you have probably three to five specific questions for this person. There's a reason why you wanted to meet her or him. Maybe they've made a career change that you want to make. They were working for a large corporation. Now they're running a nonprofit and you'd like to switch from the private sector to the nonprofit sector, so you'd like to learn from their experience. Maybe, if that is your goal, you're carrying around these objections about why you might not be able to do that. You can turn those questions, or rather those objections, into questions. Maybe you think, for example, I've never worked in the nonprofit sector, I'll never get past the resume stage. You can say to someone who's done it well, what challenges did you face in showing that you had the skills necessary to move from the private to the nonprofit sector and how did you do that? So think about the reasons why you want to meet with this person. Bring those reasons into specific, targeted questions. That's part number two. Part number three is you want to get introductions to other people. This person knows who can help you with your job search. Maybe you've done your homework and you've identified that this person is connected on LinkedIn to someone at an organization you'd like to meet and you can say, hey, I know that you. I saw on LinkedIn your first degree connection of Mary Smith. I wonder if you'd feel comfortable making an introduction. I'd like to talk to her for this reason. And or could I simply use your name If you want to make it really easy for them, say, hey, I could draft a note for you or Mary, and send it over, that you obviously you know, just to help you get started, or that you could easily adapt and save you some time and effort. So if you do those three things, john, if you tell your story, share your goals, share your goals, explain why you're there. Number two, ask targeted questions that this person can answer. And number three, ask for introductions to people who are important in your job search that this person is connected to. That is a successful meeting. Sometimes people go into these conversations they're not sure what to ask for, or they think they, or they're not sure about the outcomes. But those outcomes matter because this person will think of you when they hear of opportunities related to what you want. You're not saying let me know if you hear of anything, or but you, they will think oh, she wants to move from the private sector to the nonprofit sector. She's interested in becoming an executive director and maybe you've gone into the. You should go into this level of detail. She wants to work in food security issues. So if a position like that pops up, they will think of you and you're and put your name forward. The other thing that happens is you'll make a good impression. This person will become part of your network. When I've gone through job searches earlier in my career, I'm still in touch with people I met through informational interviews several decades ago and many of these people I ended up working with because they were in the field that I had targeted, and so you. The third thing that will happen as you meet and talk with more people is you'll start to uncover jobs that never get advertised on the job board, like the one I run, and, as you know, referrals are so powerful when people are making hiring decisions. Even the slightest of connections providing a referral can give you an advantage of your competition.John Neral:
Absolutely All right, mac. I got a whole bunch of follow up questions for you, because that was that was so good and there's so many things that I want to ask you about. So, going back to the second part of a successful informational interview, you mentioned about having three to five questions that you want to ask someone that allow you to take command of that meeting. Do you recommend that you send those questions to the person you're interviewing ahead of time to give them time to think about an answer, or is it OK to just do it on the spot?Mac Prichard:
I think you should do it in conversation, but I do think it's important I'm glad you brought this up, john to explain why you want to meet with this person. So there's a reason and a good request for an information review. So often a brief email that sounds something like this my name is Mac Pritchard. I'm currently working in finance for this large private company. I want to move. I'm exploring a career change. I'm interested in becoming executive director of a nonprofit involved in food security and I, because of your own transition into this field, I'd like to talk to you about your experience and the lessons you learned. I've got some specific questions I'd like to raise with you. I only need 20 to 30 minutes of your time here. I could meet with you at your convenience. If it's easier for you, here's a link to my online calendar so you can pick a time, but let me know if there's another way to make this scheduling easier. Now, that's a little longer than a two or three paragraphs, but you get the main points and you can obviously tighten that up. But if you tell someone the reason why you want to meet with them, they're much more likely to say yes, because it seems manageable, and they also think oh, I can answer that I know how to help this person. This is especially important if you've been introduced to someone you've never met before. The wrong way and I've made this mistake a number of times earlier in my career John is to say I'd just like to get together with you to pick your brain, or could we meet for coffee? And these are all well-intentioned requests, but the challenge is, when you're on the receiving end of this, you think well, I'm not sure I can help this person. I don't know exactly what she or he wants. And coffee, that sounds like a lot of work going to a Starbucks or an hour and a half of my time. But if it's 20 to 30 minutes to answer, to talk about a topic that is specific and you are knowledgeable and you're much more likely to say yes.John Neral:
And thank you for walking us through that, especially because I did that too, right? Yeah, hey, can I pick your brain for an informational interview?Mac Prichard:
and you hear a cricket, I said that yeah, and, not surprisingly, I wasn't getting a lot of responses, often because people weren't sure how to help. And here's the good news People do want to help. You just got to make it easy for them to say yes, and so the more specific you are about your request and what you want to talk about, the more likely you are to get yes as an answer.John Neral:
And that goes back to your whole point about having a very clearly defined goal and intention for asking someone for that informational interview. So, Mac, in this scenario, let's just say I've approached you about conducting an informational interview. I did all the things you talked about. I shared the goals, I had three to five really good questions, I asked for an invitation to people in your network. And I'm sitting here wondering well, you just gave me all of your time and you shared your expertise with me. How else can I thank you? So, from this end, in this relationship building end, what are some things that somebody could do to show an appreciation for somebody that gave of their time to do an informational interview?Mac Prichard:
Well, several ideas come to mind. First, you can say at the end of the conversation is there a way I could be helpful to you, John? Is there something I could do for you Because, remember, you're walking into this conversation even if you're a new college graduate or but I know your listeners are largely mid-career with your own network of contacts, with your own skills and experiences. You have a lot to offer, and just asking that question reaffirms that, and it also puts you in a position of being of service to others as well, and that's always a good place to be. Second thing is send a thank you note. I think a handwritten note is always nice, but email is okay too, but acknowledge that time that you got and make it personal. If this person referred you to three people, or one or two people, mention them by name, tell in a brief note the steps you're going to take to follow up on the person's advice or introductions. And the third thing and I don't see this happen very often, but the people I get these notes from I always know they're going to have great careers Once you land in a position go back to the 5, 10, 15, maybe 20 people that you met with and send them an email or, ideally, a handwritten note with your new card and say John, it was a delight to meet you three, four months ago. Thank you again for your wonderful help. I just want you to know that I'm now the executive director of this organization. Please let me know how it can be of help to you and let's stay in touch. If you do that, you will stand out head and shoulders among all the other people that this person has had informational interviews with, and it goes without saying that when you're getting ready to meet someone for an informational interview, you should research them online and send them a LinkedIn invitation so you'll be connected with them that way. But these three steps, I think, are vital if you want to not only show your appreciation but be of service to others and stay connected with them and build a relationship as a peer as you proceed through your career.John Neral:
Those are three excellent tips and suggestions there. What are your thoughts about doing any kind of endorsing someone for skills on LinkedIn? So if we sat down and talked for 20 or 30 minutes, do you think it's appropriate to go under their LinkedIn profile and endorse them for something they talked about, just to give that little plus mark there and give them a little LinkedIn SEO, if you will?Mac Prichard:
That can be helpful. I think I would send a thank you note first, of course, yeah, yeah.John Neral:
I think, it's um, it's one of those things too, where and I loved how you said we can send a handwritten thank you, note right. Years ago, when you and I were younger, we used to do that all the time. I couldn't play with a gift. Somebody got me until I wrote them a handwritten thank you, note right. And of course, everything's so much more digital and quick and things like that. But I loved your point too there about like just let's make this personal, let's really thank them and the follow up after you land the job is gold.Mac Prichard:
And I often hear from candidates and I struggled with this myself earlier in my career how do I stand out, how do I show that I'm different? And simple steps like this can make a difference, huge difference To your point about LinkedIn and skills. I think that's a good idea. Another one is the people you meet with are active on LinkedIn. They're posting articles occasionally or sharing other material through their LinkedIn page. Comment and give thumbs up and do it in an authentic way that advances the conversation. I've written my share of great posts exclamation point but if you can make a thoughtful remark of a sentence or two, that's gonna move the conversation forward. Person will not only notice, they'll appreciate it because it will engage others in the conversation and that's another way of being of service, absolutely so good.John Neral:
Well, mac, we spend some time talking about having these informational interviews and it goes without question from both of our experiences that we know cultivating relationships and having a wonderful professional network is something which, without question, can be very advantageous for those people who are actively job seeking. But we also know there are people out there who get a little nervous about doing informational interviews or they tend to shy away from networking and they will turn to a job board, be it MaxList, or they will look on LinkedIn or Indeed or any of the other job boards and things. So can you talk to us a little bit just about what you find especially are the benefits of a job board, especially when you're actively job seeking?Mac Prichard:
A number of benefits come to mind. First of all, you'll hear about positions that you might not otherwise be aware of if you were simply relying on word of mouth through your own network. And another benefit is, when you know the position you want, you can use job boards to research the qualifications and skills that employers typically require for those jobs, and you can also uncover salary information that can help you with negotiation later, when you're a job offer is on the table. Using job postings, you can pick out key words, and you should obviously look at six or 10 postings from different employers for the same position. But you can use those key words, once you identify them, to strengthen your resume and your application materials, because, while ATSs aren't making decisions about who gets interviews, they are assigning scores and ranking applicants, and key words are an important part of that formula. So those are several ways that come to mind. I think it's always important to remember that many jobs don't get advertised and many employers will use several job boards so they can't rely just on one, and they will also may turn to recruiters and referrals from their own networks. That's why you can't put all your eggs in one basket when you're a job seeker, you've got to look at job boards. They're useful for uncovering vacancies. They're helpful for research, particularly with salary negotiation and refining your application materials. They'll give you clues about who's hiring. But for those unadvertised positions you've got to get step away from the computer and go out and talk to people.John Neral:
Thank you for that. We say it all the time, right, but I always say to my clients there's no one right way to find a job, because you could be standing in line at the supermarket and talk to somebody that knows somebody. The next thing you know you're going for an interview, but it's getting away from the computer. Use it as an advantage in the benefits you just talked about, but find ways to build those relationships, and what you've outlined for us today, especially around having an informational interview and doing it particularly well or exceptionally well, I should say will really help people stand out a whole lot more. So thank you for that, mac. We are going to start wrapping up, though, and you and I know I could talk to you for hours, but we're going to start wrapping up here. So, for those people who are listening to our conversation, what advice would you give to them to help them build their mid-career GPS?Mac Prichard:
Don't wait to be picked. Don't wait to be picked. I want to say that a second time because it's so important. I'm so proud of the value our job board offers, but I meet so many job seekers who focus on waiting for positions to appear at positions at companies, rather, or organizations where they dream of working. And if you have a list of target employers or there's a dream employer, don't—it's good. You should go to the career page for that organization. You should look on websites like mine and do keyword searches and job alerts for that employer. But if you know that's where you want to go, use the skills that you and I have discussed today to begin building relationships with people inside that organization. Now, if your dream is to work at Nike I happen to be in Portland, oregon look at the Nike webpage. Look at sites like mine where you occasionally will see Nike jobs. But start talking to people inside Nike or whoever your dream employer is, because when—it'll help you in two ways. One, some of those positions will never get posted, but you could hear about them if you have your own network inside that organization and when those positions are posted and you see them and you know people on the inside, you can reach out to that person and say to her say, what do you know about this position? What are the challenges that the manager faces? And you can address those issues in your application materials. You can also ask your contact in the inside to make an introduction to the hiring manager or pass your resume along. That's not going to get you the job. It's not going to lead to a job offer. But when that manager is going through 50, 100, 150 resumes and Mary comes down the hall and says you should talk to John, it'll probably get you an interview. It'll certainly get your resume hold out of the pile and that manager will spend more than seven seconds looking at it. So don't wait to be picked.John Neral:
That's so good and so true as well. Mac, I'm going to turn the mic over to you. I would be honored if you would just share with us where people can find you. Connect with you, learn more about MaxList, your podcast. My friend, the mic is yours.Mac Prichard:
Thank you, john. I appreciate the opportunity to be on the show and thank you for the good work you're doing to help mid-career job seekers. It's just invaluable and it's an honor to be here. Thank you. Listeners can connect with me on LinkedIn and, if you do, please mention that you heard me on the Mid-Career GPS podcast. I do host a weekly career advice podcast Find your Dream Job and every week I talk to a different career expert about the tools you need to find the work you want. We focus on job search. We're very granular about that and I was honored that you were a guest on the show, john.John Neral:
Yes, thank you, yeah, last year.Mac Prichard:
Thank you for having me, and I encourage you to look at our website, maxlistorg. We do have hundreds of articles and other resources for job seekers all free. But how to look for work? It's advice that works not only in Portland, oregon, but wherever you happen to be.John Neral:
I will make sure all of that is in the show notes, but additionally, I want to add that, while we know people, a lot of people listen to your podcast, and I'm honored that people listen to mine as well. You have an amazing guide. It is called your Guide to the Top Career Podcast. You just released the 2023 edition. I am honored to be included there for the second year, but I want my listeners to go there as well, because there are so many talented and amazing people in this career space that we know that if you are looking to add a different podcast to your playlist or you're looking for some additional information as you navigate toward whatever is next, we are certainly not the only two in the space, and so I will link up to your guide there as well for people to check in too. So, mac, thank you again for including me, but you put so much valuable information and resources out there. You are at the epitome of what it means to just build and foster relationships, and I want to thank you so much for your time today.Mac Prichard:
Well, you're welcome. Listeners can find that guide at topcareerpodcastcom. There are so many other great hosts out there. Arthur, john, there are. One of the pleasures of my work is I get to talk to many of them and it's always fun and I always learn new things.John Neral:
Yes, absolutely Well. My friends, I hope today's episode enlightened you and gave you some information about what kind of strategies you want to implement when you go to do your next informational interview. Mac shared with us some really structured tips and guidance about being very clear about your intention, having three to five excellent questions that are going to get you the information that you need, but also the most important question, which is who else do you need to be talking to? Who else do you want to be connected to in their network? Who do they think you should be talking to? And then, lastly, remember that you also provide a lot of value as well. It may not be right now, it may be a little bit further down the road, but do not sell yourself short when it comes to your value as a talented professional in whatever space you decide to play in. So I want to thank you for spending some time with me and Mac today and, as always, remember this we build our mid-career GPS one mile or one step at a time, and how we show up matters. Make it a great rest of your day. Thank you for listening to the Mid-Career GPS Podcast. Make sure to follow on your favorite listening platform and, if you have a moment, I'd love to hear your comments on Apple podcasts. Visit JohnNarrowcom for more information about how I can help you build your mid-career GPS or how I can help you and your organization with your next workshop or public speaking event, and don't forget to connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on social at JohnNarrowCoaching. I look forward to being back with you next week. Until then, take care and remember how we show up matters.