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How to Ask for an Informational Meeting

webI was invited to a presentation yesterday given by a marketing guru to a group of talented design students. The purpose of his presentation was to convey the parallels between marketing a product and marketing themselves.

Resumes = Junk Mail

I am always dismayed when I hear people focus on the resume and cover letter as a means of creating interest. Some of that started to happen yesterday. What is the success rate of sending spam or direct mail? 0-3%.

I think we are assuming that companies with jobs to be filled, are “pre-qualified leads” and I just don’t buy it. Would you rather purchase a car because several friends recommended it for all the reasons that are important to you or because you received a flyer in the mail about it? This is backed up by the data from CareerXroads 9th Annual Sources of Hire that says 25+% of external hiring happens from referrals.

When you hear people suggest you should make contact with people inside a company, the question inevitably is “HOW?”

How do you meet anyone?

In this new world we live in, being connected and meeting new people (online and in person) is critical to your professional survival. Really, it is. Back to my question, how do you meet people inside a company you think you would like to work for?

  • You could pick up the phone and just call. Cold calls are scary and require thick skin, but you know, sometimes they work.
  • You could ask everyone you know if they know someone who works in that target company.
  • You could use LinkedIn to see if you have any contacts or to at least gather some names.
  • You could Google the company and see who’s been mentioned lately and reach out and congratulate them.
  • You could try and find them on Twitter (using Twellow or similar search tools).

You could do a lot of things.

Your next question is:

“Well, what do I talk to them about?”

Though you may be in job search, you are primarily in “information gathering” mode. You need to learn about what the company or department goals are. You want to learn about the culture, you want to know what their problems or concerns are so that you can be a solution.

When you are requesting such a meeting (with companies who are not currently hiring) your request may sound something like:

  • “I’ve recently worked on a project creating infographics and would like to talk with you about how your company is using them and where you see this concept heading in the future.”
  • “I have been following what your company is doing and am really interested in how you are making strides to better inform and communicate with your customers. Would you have time to meet with me?”
  • “I’m completing my degree in Design in the Spring and would really love to learn more about the clients you serve and the services they are requesting.”

All of these requests work best if you could actually drop a name as you introduce yourself.
“I was talking with Spongebob yesterday about my design career and he suggested your name as someone who could offer really valuable advice because of your experience.”

Get Ahead of the Curve

The key to your success is identifying companies in advance of their advertising a position. Once they’ve announced a job, they’ll be overwhelmed with the process and might be less likely to agree to an informational meeting, though it never hurts to try.

Now go back and create a list of 40 or so companies you believe would have a need for the kind of work you do. Begin doing some preliminary research and see who you can find who works there.

While you are at it, why don’t you create a personal marketing plan that demonstrates your strengths and goals!  Sample Marketing Plan

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