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Informational Interviews for Introverts

By Wendy Gelberg

In the Careers for Introverts article, I suggested using LinkedIn to reach out to people who work in a career that you're exploring, to actually talk with someone already doing the job and learn more about it - in other words, to have an informational interview.

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On the surface, the process of gathering information should be right up your alley if you're an introvert. But the prospect of reaching out to someone you don't know - well, that's a challenge, for introverts and extroverts alike.

A reader wrote to ask about the likelihood that strangers would respond, and after an exchange of emails and with the reader's consent, I wanted to provide additional tips about how to approach people so that you improve your chances of success.

Warm vs. Cold Calling

The most challenging call is a completely cold call, where you don't know the person you're contacting at all. Your odds improve considerably if you reach out to someone who is known by someone else that you know - in other words a "warm call" vs. a cold call.

As noted in the previous article, LinkedIn can map out how you're connected to others, so that you're dealing with mostly warm calls. As an introvert, the process of identifying people who might be helpful can definitely play to your strengths.

Beating the Shyness Factor

But what would you actually say to initiate the conversation you hope to have? How do you get past the shyness that may arise at the prospect of talking to someone you don't know?

With regard to any shyness that creeps in, shift your focus away from your discomfort and onto the project at hand. Immerse yourself in the great research project that awaits you, as you delve deeply into the specifics of a new career. Shifting the spotlight onto something else is a powerful antidote to shyness, and the opportunity to explore this in depth should be energizing to you as an introvert.

Also, in some cases you can initiate the conversation via email or LinkedIn inmail, or with a friend's introduction (live or via LinkedIn). An initial contact in written form definitely plays to your introverted strengths - but you run the risk of having it not read or dumped into a spam filter.

What to Say

When you reach the person you're trying to contact, here are the points you want to cover, to get the process started:

  • Identify yourself, explain why you're calling, and mention how you got the person's name.
  • Make it clear that you aren't asking for a job; you're seeking advice. You're exploring a new career path and would like to learn more about it from someone who's actually traveled down that path.
  • You recognize that the present time may not be convenient for a conversation, but would like to schedule a time that would be.
  • You won't need more than 20 or 30 minutes (and when you actually have the conversation, stick to those parameters).
  • You'll have specific questions that will keep the conversation on track (and which you can provide ahead of time, if that would be helpful).

Relying strictly on cold calling, my reader stated that he was "surprised how receptive people have been. The response rate has been probably around 1 in 4." We speculated that warm calls would have, perhaps, produced an even higher response rate.

Bottom Line:

Use your introvert preference for information gathering to energize and motivate you to contact others to help you explore new career options.


About the author...

Wendy Gelberg is a Career Navigator at JVS CareerSolution in Boston and author of The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career. She is a certified career coach and resume writer whose expertise is in helping people who are uncomfortable "tooting their own horn." Wendy writes resumes, gives workshops, coaches individuals, and writes articles and blogs on all aspects of the job search process. Samples of her resumes and career advice appear in over 20 books. Wendy has been a career coach and resume writer for over 15 years. She has been an introvert her whole life. Contact Wendy at wgelberg@careersolution.org.


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