The three main ways of making contact are telephone, email, and snail mail. If you call your potential interviewee, it might help to write down what you plan to say ahead of time. If you send something written, be sure to proofread your missive. It is especially important that you do not say or do anything that makes it sound as though you’re trying to get the person to hire you. While that would be nice, it’s not the point of the informational interview.
Telephone calls, emails, and letters basically follow the same structure:
1. Introduce yourself
2. Explain that you’re interested in the field in question, but that you would like to learn more about it through someone like your potential interviewee, who has a lot of experience and wisdom.
3. Give a specific reason you’re interested in talking to the potential interviewee – you’ll show you’re serious and focused when you, for example, tell the head of a public relations firm that you know her organization does a lot of work for environmental groups, and you’re specifically interested in that aspect of PR.
4. Ask if the person has time for a 30-minute meeting during which you could learn more about the interviewees’ work and thoughts about their career.
This whole process of contacting interviewees might make you a little nervous – if you’re new to the working world and low on the totem pole, calling up a business executive can be a little frightening. You may be especially hesitant because you feel like you have nothing to offer in return for that executive’s time. Relax. Most successful members of the working world have an intimate understanding of the networking system. They know that when they were inexperienced, seasoned professionals helped them out. And now that they’re the high-level executives, they’ll talk to you at a business conference or grant you a 30-minute meeting – with the understanding that when you’re a big shot, you’ll take a few minutes out of a busy day to advise a newcomer about your line of work. And, if that answer doesn’t satisfy you, remember that most people love talking about themselves and relish the experience of feeling like an important expert in their field.