Making the Most of Informational Interviews

Does the idea of conducting informational interviews feel intimidating?

Consider thinking of them as “curiosity conversations”—opportunities to make meaningful connections with folx in your field and gain insights and advice that will help you move forward in your career development.

If you missed our information interviewing webinar last week, here are some key takeaways:

    • Clarify your interests, needs, and goals to assess what knowledge and insights will help you move forward in your career exploration.
    • Identify contacts from your network who possess the background or expertise in your area of interest, including through the CSSW LinkedIn Group or career mentoring program for students.
    • Prepare a brief overview of your professional experience and an agenda for the meeting to ensure you leave with your “must” takeaways.
    • Ask thoughtful questions that can provide actionable insights and build upon what you already know.
    • Make sure to follow-up with a thank you note and keep the contact up-to-date on your progress.

You can find the presentation slides in Career Connect within our Document Library under the Workshops / Webinars / Presentations folder.

Get Career Advice from an Alum through our Fall 2020 Mentorship Program!

The Office of Alumni Relations and Office of Career Services and Leadership Management are pleased to offer a special opportunity to meet virtually with alumni for career mentoring!

Mentoring Program Overview

Through this program, students can request to connect with up to 2 alums per month for 1:1 conversations to:

    • Gain insights and perspectives about a career path, field, organization, or industry;
    • Get advice about career planning, searching and applying for jobs (including resume writing), networking, interviewing, or navigating life after CSSW; OR
    • Seek support in general from someone who’s been in your shoes as a student

Interested? 

    1. Fill out this mentoring program interest form. On the form, you will find a link to a directory with a list of all available volunteer mentors. Select the one you’re interested in meeting. Note that you will have to complete this form for each request.
    2. After submitting the form, you will receive an email confirmation as well as an introductory email from Jennifer March from Alumni Relations connecting you to the alum of choice within 2 business days. If you don’t hear from Jennifer in that time frame, please email her at jennifer.march@columbia.edu.
    3. Once you receive the email, it will be your responsibility to arrange a meeting directly with the alum using the contact information provided. While Zoom meetings are recommended, you can choose a platform that works best for both you and the alum.

Remember: This is NOT a forum to ask for a job or a recommendation for a job, but rather an opportunity to gather valuable information based on their knowledge and expertise.

After the initial meeting, it will be up to you and the alum to decide whether to stay in touch.

For more information, refer to our program overview.

Questions?

For general questions about our alumni mentors, please email Jennifer March at jennifer.march@columbia.edu.
You can also refer to our Informational Interview Guide or schedule an appointment with our office to discuss your questions further.
We hope you take advantage of this opportunity!

Strategies for Successful Student-Alumni Networking

Networking and informational interviewing are critical tools for career success, whether you are a student or seasoned professional.

Specifically, they can help you:

    • Learn about different careers and industries
    • Gain insider knowledge about specific positions or organizations
    • Discover “hidden” opportunities
    • Build a network of contacts for information-sharing, mentorship, and partnerships
    • Gain visibility in the field

Student-Alumni Networking Events are particularly valuable because they provide students an opportunity to connect with alumni who have an interest in sharing their insights and advice and can relate to their educational experience.

Whether you are networking in a formal or informal setting, consider the following strategies:

    1. Keep the goal in mind. The objective of networking or informational interviewing is to gather informationnot to ask for a job. If done effectively, it can lead to valuable contacts and information regarding potential opportunities.
    2. Conduct a self-assessment of your goals and interests. It’s okay if you’re not exactly sure what you want to do; however, you should have a general sense of your skills, goals, and interests so that you can ask targeted questions that can help you move forward.
    3. Prepare an introduction. How you introduce yourself will influence how you’ll be remembered. To make a strong first impression, be ready to share a quick introduction on who you are, what you do or have done, and what you hope to learn. Be sure to bring business cards if you have them.
    4. Do your research. Learn as much as you can about your prospective new contacts using online resources such as LinkedIn. They have invested time out of their schedule to meet with you; invest time to learn as much as you can about them.
    5. Develop a list of questions. Conversations will be more productive if you prepare a list of relevant questions in advance. Examples:
      • How did you market your social work skills and experience to land your current role?
      • What classes were most valuable for the work you’re leading? 
      • What recommendations do you have for those interested in following your career path?
    6. If you’re in a group setting, provide opportunities for others to engage. You can learn a great deal from listening to and showing interest in others. It is also the courteous thing to do!
    7. Follow up. Make sure to send a thank you note to the contacts you made and stay in touch with any updates, especially if they provided specific advice or leads that were helpful. Go a step further and offer to serve as a resource for them in the future. Ultimately, meaningful networking is about cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship.

Student Access to the Online Alumni Community Is Now Live

From the Office of Development and Alumni Relations:

We are so excited to tell you that you now have access to our Online Alumni Community which enables you to search for more than 350,000 alumni worldwide from all the schools in the University.

Using this platform, you can:

  • search for alumni by state, school, graduation year, organization etc.,
  • direct message with alumni,
  • start editing your personal profile, and
  • expand your professional network.
Simply log in to the Community at https://alumni.columbia.edu/content/alumni-community  with your UNI and password.  Start by using the “search” function in the top right to find alumni by entering “social work.”  When the names of alumni appear, use the filters on the left to narrow your search.  Read the Student FAQ’s before getting started for more information.

For those of you who are graduating this year, you will soon be able access advanced features of the Online Alumni Community such as completing your full profile, joining groups, posting messages, and receiving personalized feeds based on your interests.  We will email you when you have complete access to the platform – expect up to 30 days after commencement.

If you have any questions, please email sswalumni@columbia.edu or call 212-851-2372.