STEM PPG Module 3: Informational Interviewing and Networking

Objective

To connect with others in your personal and professional communities in order to learn more about career paths, work environments and functional roles; gain insight into how to manage your professional development; and build a network that can help you access new opportunities. Go beyond online research and feel confident in conducting conversations that propel you forward in your career journey!

Individual Activities

Networking is one of the most important career development strategies. Research indicates that 70% of all positions are not listed publicly and almost 80% of jobs are filled through personal and professional referrals. In this module, we will introduce informational interviews, a great place to establish a new connection and learn more about a particular career path, an alum’s career transitions, skills that are valuable to a job, or any other topics that will help you make informed decisions.

  1. Join Cross-Campus, Yale’s new alumni networking platform. Be sure to sign up for the GSAS discussion group to connect with Ph.D. alums!
  2. Select 2-3 alumni from LinkedIn’s Yale Alumni page or Cross-Campus working in a career that you are interested in. Don’t forget that your network includes alumni from your undergraduate alma mater as well!
  3. Write a draft of  your introductory email to the alumni (OCS has sample emails online, which can be found here.) Your email should:
    1. Introduce yourself
    2. Explain why you are contacting them (to set up an informational interview) and why you selected them (they are working in a job you are interested in learning more about!)
    3. Ask if there is a time they are available to chat on the phone for 20-30 minutes about their career
    4. Thank them for their time.
    5. Double-check grammar and make appropriate edits!
  4. When you reach out, you may want to use a networking log to keep track of whom you have contacted and their information. Be sure to take notes during the informational interview as well.
  5. Prepare a list of questions that you want to ask beforehand. You can find some key questions at OCS Informational Interviewing. To make the most out of your interview, be sure to research the companies ahead of time and craft questions that can’t be easily answered via a web search.
  6. After the informational interview, write a thank you note to your interviewer. OCS has a few samples online but remember to modify the sample based on your conversation:
    1. Thank You Letters
    2. Post-Networking Thank You Letter
  7. “If you’re not staying in touch with people from your past, you’re cutting off a lot of potential opportunities (Dorie Clark).” Visit Career One Stop and Universal Class to learn about how to maintain your network.

Group Activities

  1. Discuss tips and strategies for effective networking. We know that networking is an essential part of career development, but it can often be a challenge. Do you have any strategies that have helped you in the past?
  2. Has anyone previously conducted an informational interview? If so, what was this experience like for you? What questions did you ask? What did you learn?
  3. Brainstorm questions to ask the alumni when you speak with them.
  4. Discuss who you chose to email and why you chose them. Is there something specific you are hoping to learn from each individual? Are you exploring multiple career paths?
  5. Share your draft email with your peers and let them give you some critical suggestions.
  6. Leverage your own personal networks to suggest other people for your group members to connect with. Aim for every member of the group to leave the meeting with one new contact!
  7. We understand that maintaining a network may be even more challenging than building a network initially. However, it is crucial in your career development. Reflect on where you succeeded and struggled in your previous networking efforts. Share your experience with your peers and identify ways to improve your networking skills.

Optional Reading and Videos