In writing this book, we were amazed time and again at the overwhelming generosity
and helpfulness of every designer we contacted. They offered us their
hard-won wisdom on a variety of subjects gifted us with great writing samples
for this book, and hooked us up with other designers to interview.
It’s possible that you, too, can tap into the kindness of strangers as you search
for work. With the right attitude and some planning, you may find informational
interviews a useful avenue to career information and leads. The “right
attitude” means that you should never confuse an informational interview
appointment with a job interview. Make no attempt whatsoever to sell yourself.
Otherwise, you’ll be guilty of the old “bait and switch” approach, a transparent
tactic sure to turn people off.
During an informational interview, you are there to learn as much as you
can about career opportunities in the design field as quickly as possible. Asking
good questions yields the information you can mine to find a job elsewhere.
Time for a scenario: Let’s say your aunt is best friends with a creative
director at a top firm, which has recently experienced some cutbacks and layoffs.
Clearly not looking to hire you, right? But your aunt’s best friend is still willing
to give you a half-hour meeting. Consider yourself lucky.
First, determine what it is you want to know. Maybe you want feedback on
your portfolio. Maybe you seek specific info about junior designers’ job responsibilities.
Maybe you want advice on breaking into graphic design. Arrive with
your own specific questions. Here are some to get you thinking:
• What led you to design?
• What do you like most about the design business?
• What do you like least?
• What do you wish you’d known when you were just starting out?
• What changes are impacting the field?
• What can you tell me about the market for designers these days?
• What’s the best way for a new designer like me to break in?
• Can you think of anyone else who might be helpful that I can talk to?
As the meeting progresses, take notes and jot down any lead or contact
information. No matter how eager you are to continue the conversation, don’t
overstay your scheduled time. Before you depart, offer your thanks, along with
a leave-behind. Within a few days, mail a typewritten thank-you letter, expressing
your appreciation for the gift of time you were given. And, when you do
land your first position, be sure to notify the kind souls who extended themselves
on your behalf