How to Conduct Great Informational Interviews #1: Identify Your Target Interviewee

CirclesIt can be intimidating to think about calling or emailing a complete stranger and asking them to meet with you. Keep in mind, however, that most people love to talk about themselves, and will often be quite flattered that you have an interest in meeting them.

Think About People You Already Know

One of the easiest places to start is with people you already know.

Do you have an uncle who’s a lawyer? Ask him to go to lunch with you and talk about his career. Even if he doesn’t work in the exact area you’re considering, he may have some general observations that are useful, and, more importantly, probably knows people who work in other areas of the law.

After your discussion, you can ask for introductions to these people, smoothing the way for an informational interview with them.

Think About Someone You Know, Who Might Know Someone

If you don’t know anyone in the legal field personally, all is not lost! There are lots of other options for setting up informational interviews.

Think of the “degrees of separation” theory:

Who do you know, who might know someone, who might know someone, who knows the sort of person you’d like to talk with?

At this point, you don’t necessarily need to identify the exact person you’d like to speak to (and John Roberts might be busy, in any case).

Don’t Get Too Specific (Yet)

Think generally.

If you’re interested in immigration law, for example, do you have any friends who are naturalized citizens? They probably hired a lawyer to guide them through the process, so you can ask for an introduction.

If you can’t think of any friends or family members who can help you out, how about teachers, coaches, or other mentors?

If you’re interested in entertainment law, your high school basketball coach might be friendly with a sports scout, who might know a sports agent, who might work closely with a lawyer to represent his clients’ interests. A simple inquiry to your old coach could result in an interview with a high-powered entertainment lawyer before you know it!

Do Some Research to Find Interesting People

What if you don’t have personal connections to the sort of person you’d like to interview? No problem.

Just figure out who you’d like to talk with and contact them directly.

Say you’re interested in housing law, and you happen to live in New York City. If you type “new york city housing lawyer” into an Internet search engine, you’ll have a plethora of options for your informational interviews.

The Bottom Line

If someone looks interesting to you, add them to your list. You’re likely to have too many options, rather than too few.

Make a List of Target Interviewees:

People I know personally:
1.
2.
3.
People I know who might know someone interesting:
1.
2.
3.
People I’m not yet connected to who seem interesting:
1.
2.
3.

Keep Reading:

Stay tuned for the rest of the four-step guide to conducting great informational interviews:

Have tips for finding good people to interview? Leave them in the comments!

Image by k_vohsen via stock.xchng.


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