What is networking?
Networking means building professional relationships with others. For students exploring industry, networking can be associated with communicating with a variety of different individuals:
- Informing others (relatives, friends of friends, student organization members, professors current employers etc.) that are you currently exploring career possibilities
- Reaching out to professionals who are doing something that you want to learn more about and setting up an informational interview
What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is a brief meeting with someone in a profession or an organization you want to explore. Instead of directly observing a professional in their environment of work, an informational interview will allow you to have a short conversation (typically 30 minutes) in person or over the phone to ask questions about your profession of interest. You can conduct informational interviews with alumni, family and friends, or people you find through resources like LinkedIn, the Maroon and Gold Network or at Career Fairs in your field of interest; all will be able to give you different and valuable perspectives.
Sample questions to ask during an informational interview
- What are your main responsibilities as a...?
- What is a typical day (or week) like for you?
- What do you like most about your work?
- What do you like least about your work?
- What kinds of problems do you deal with?
- What kinds of decisions do you make?
- How does your position fit within the organization/career field/industry?
- How does your job affect your general lifestyle?
- What current issues and trends in the field should I be aware of?
- What are common entry-level jobs?
- What steps would you recommend I take to prepare to enter this field?
Things to consider before reaching out
What is the purpose of your outreach? Are you interested in learning about that person’s career path, what they do at their job, or about the company where they work? Knowing what information you’re looking for will help the person you want to speak with have a better understanding of what you want to know, and this information will help them feel more comfortable saying yes to you!
Be specific about the time commitment you’re requesting.
Asking for someone to be your lifelong mentor versus answering some questions about their career over e-mail are very different requests. Being specific about what you are asking for from someone can also increase the likelihood that they will respond to you. Most people can usually find time to take a 30 minute phone call or answer two to three questions over e-mail.
Need help finding people you want to connect with?
Attend one of the many CBS or U of M Career Events created to connect you with professionals. We offer career fairs, like the Life Sciences Graduate School Fair, networking opportunities such as company visits, alumni networking dinners, and career panels- all great ways to meet people with careers you may be interested in. To see upcoming events check out the CBS Bioblog, and/or GoldPass powered by Handshake. Student organizations often bring in guest speakers, and can be another great way to connect with others. Finally, don’t forget about resources like LinkedIn and the Maroon and Gold Network to find people.
Sample General Informational Interview E-mail
Have questions, or need some advice? We invite you to set up a time to speak with a member of the CBS Career Team. You can do so online at https://cbsss.appointments.umn.edu/, or by calling CBS Student Services at 612-624-9717. In addition to answering any questions you may have, members of the Career Team are available to help with:
- Identifying individuals for informational interviews
- Identifying industry professions of interest
- Requesting informational interviews
- Navigating networking resources such as LinkedIn and Maroon and Gold Network
- Reviewing questions to ask during informational interviews