- Your goal is to paint a picture so clearly that you understand 100% what it would look and feel like to walk in and do that job tomorrow.
- Your second goal is to understand the pathway and what's actually required to break into each role. This includes stories, patterns, trends, examples, and nuances for who gets hired and what they look for.
- Gather information first, and then reflect afterwards to make a decision on whether that path is the right fit for you or not. Allow yourself to learn first and only decide on what is or is not a fit after you have a full understanding of the day to day of the role as well as the pathway to breaking in.
- If you ask a broad question, you’ll get a broad answer. Reflect deeply to get clear on what you truly want or need to know and then get creative and concrete with how to phrase your questions so you get the best possible information.
- Be sure to start by mentioning that you have an agenda and have prepared specific questions so that they know it's your meeting and so that you can get out of it what you need. Oftentimes people think they know what you need but really, you know what you need! They’ll be grateful you’re prepared, using their time wisely, and truly benefiting from their help.
- While you do have an agenda handy, stay fluid. If you think of questions on the fly or hear something interesting, drill down into it. Have your prepared questions handy for when you don't have any new questions that arise at the moment.
- You can start by asking questions at a higher level on your first few calls (i.e. ask for high level overviews to gain a broad understanding of the role or industry at first), and after a few calls, you'll get much more specific with your questions. Always be honest and authentic with what you ask so it is the best possible value to you. Let them meet you where you’re at with your current understanding so they can genuinely fill in the gaps for you.
- Leverage their vantage point on other roles, teams, companies, or industries that you're interested in. Their exposure beyond their own role can be very helpful. It’s very possible that the right role for you is someone who sits next to them or an adjacent team.
- Avoid opinion questions like "what do you like or not like?" as they may hate something you would love and vice versa. Aim for facts and information so you can form your own opinion.
- Avoid stories about their personal path i.e. "how did you get into the role" as they may have been an anomaly. Rather, aim to ask about patterns or hiring trends instead. You can still elicit stories or examples, but ask about the last 3 new hires into the role, rather than just one, or ask something like, "how do people typically break into this role?"
- Always send a follow up thank you email and ask to see if they'd be willing to make any other introductions for you to people in your target roles or industries. After learning so much about you and what you’re looking for, they likely will be able to make an even better introduction to someone who works in your areas of interest. This “spiraling” effect of networking is exactly what you want to follow to reach the end of the road and find ultimate clarity on what is the best fit for you. That process may very well lead you to a path that wasn’t even on your original list! Be open minded to see where it takes you. Follow the breadcrumbs.
Key Areas of Career Growth
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