By Amy L. Strachota, Toppel Practicum Student

Attending past networking events, you probably approached the process in a predominately low key manner; in other words, you spent your time introducing yourself, gathering business cards, and sending a follow-up email. Although such practices can be beneficial, proactive networking will put you in a better position to obtain your dream position. 

One way of being proactive in the networking is by conducting what’s most commonly known as an informational interview. An informational interview is a strategic way of gaining valuable information about a certain profession, while networking with employers. 

The first step is to make a hit list of potential companies you wish to work for and use your student status to your advantage when contacting these professionals. Practice your elevator pitch as you get a hold of a professional within the targeted organization. If you choose to send an email, you should include your name, educational background and reason for wishing to conduct an interview. For example: “Hi, my name is Amy Strachota; I am currently working on my Bachelor of Science degree in Human Resource Management at the University of Miami. I’m very interested in gaining more information about the field. Would it be possible to sit down with you to discuss your role within the marketing company and trends in the field as a whole?” 

Before you arrive for the informational interview, fully research the company and its mission statement. Ask questions to give you a better idea of a typical work day in that field, as well as to gain valuable job search advice. This process will provide you an avenue to have a conversation with someone who can relate to your career journey. At the conclusion of the informational interview, express your appreciation for the time the professional took out of his or her busy day to meet with you. Then, ask if you may leave your professional documents, so that the employer many contact you if any type of opportunity were to become available. Even if a position isn’t open during the time of your interview or you’re not ready to begin your career, that may change someday. Leaving your resume, cover letter and/or contact information opens the door to future possibilities — especially since you’ve already networked with that company. 

An informational interview can help you to network with professionals. This can also help focus your internship or job search strategy and clarify your career goals. And, at the very least, it can give you a new LinkedIn connection to increase your professional network.