Victoria graduated from Kent State University in 2003, with a degree in Marketing. Prior to an e-mail-blast résumé campaign and prior to pounding the pavement in search of a job, she decided to learn more about the advertising scene in her hometown. Although Larry and Sergey had been doing their thing at Google for five years, Victoria called upon a long and trusted person to make her first connection - her Mom. Mom arranged for her to meet Mr. Jones, the director of marketing for a large, multi-state bank.
When Victoria called Mr. Jones to set an appointment, she explained her quest. She was not looking for a job. She was in search of knowledge specific to marketing in her town, its players of influence and career advice.
Upon meeting Mr. Jones, he took control of the conversation. Business people in his position have a tendency to do that. After Mr. Jones spoke about the industry, his company and specific role, Victoria asked, "How did you get to where you are today?" That opened the door for Mr. Jones to get more personal and information began to turn into stories. When the conversation was over, Victoria asked, "Can you please refer me to someone who would be willing to have a similar conversation with me?" Mr. Jones recommended the CEO of a medium sized companay and made an introductory call for Victoria the next day.
Victoria left Mr. Jones with a folder that contained her résumé, cover letter, references, business card and samples of press releases that she had written. She also included a customized newsletter that featured college related accomplishments. All material was coordinated and designed with her personal logo and the tag line: Victoria Rothacker, The Missing Piece to Your Puzzle.
This process continued for six months with Victoria meeting on average, one person per week. Due to the referrals, she stayed consistently at the CEO, owner and marketing director levels. As conducting informational interviews was a primary focus throughout this period, she scored several appointments with individuals outside of this direct line of referrals as well.
In addition to her personal information packet she brought to the interviews her portfolio of freelance work and projects completed in college. On one occassion the CEO unexpectedly invited five members of his management team to sit in on the conversation. Fortunately, Victoria came prepared with extra material. Before 5:00 p.m. on each day that she met with someone, she had a handwritten thank-you card in the mail. Depending upon the dynamics of that particular meeting she would often include a small book as a token of her appreciation.
Throughout the process, Victoria continued to answer want ads and submit résumé's to other companies. As it turned out, she secured a position outside the circle of her informational interviews. So, why should I be telling you a story about informational interviewing if it didn't help Victoria obtain a job? Because it did.
Victoria's adventure taught her how to talk with owners and executives. It taught her how to interview and how to be interviewed. It taught her how to talk about herself and it sharpened her listening and communication skills. It also provided a broad, invaluable glimpse into the real world of business - one that most young people do not have the advantage of before starting their career. Finally, and in Victoria's case, it provided one very powerful caveat: many of the people who Victoria interviewed with, turned out to people in authority of companies whom she needed to conduct business with in her new position.
Following her six month of interviews, Victoria began a personal marketing campaign that continues to this day. She sends cards on St. Patrick's Day, Halloween and Christmas to people who she not only met originally, but to those who have come into her network since. Hand written cards are personalized and often contain career updates. The widsom that Victoria has gained, the goodwill that she's built and the influence that she's enjoyed along the way, cannot be measured. I'm sure however, if she sat down to think about it, she could total the many job offers that she's received along the way.
By now, you might have figured out that I am the proud dad of this creative, hard working young professional. The manner in which Victoria embraced her college experience (too many activities to list), the initial round of informational interviews, relentless networking and the work ethic that propelled her to a regional positon with an international company (still with that same company) have all conspired to drive an ax of awareness into my conscious. It caused me to think about our younger daugher, Carla.
Carla recently started college. What if Carla were to now become a seeker of stories, instead of waiting to graduate? We've been exploring this idea while collecting resources at our Facebook page Standing out in a Sea of Sameness.