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When we’re looking for a new job, we often spend all our time perfecting our resume and applying online to random openings. These tactics can sometimes work, but is there a better way? What about the times when we’re ready for a career change, but aren’t quite sure where to look for something new?

There’s a very special way to boost your search strategy. It’s cheap and easy to do. It can even be fun. In fact, you may be doing it already and don’t even realize it. The secret is called “informational interviewing.”

At first glance, informational interviewing may sound quite intimidating. After all, this phrase contains the word interview. In reality, informational interviews are quite relaxed. They’re more of an educational exercise than anything else.

Instead of calling them informational interviews, perhaps we should rename them “get to know someone new who works in a different industry or company than you do” or more simply, “networking.” Networking sounds a bit more reasonable, doesn’t it?

To set up informational interviews, reach out to those people you’d like to learn more about. Perhaps they work in an interesting industry, or maybe they have a particular job title that peaks your curiosity. Give the person a call, send an e-mail, or write a note on LinkedIn. Tell them that you admire their work, and would be grateful if they’d take just a few minutes to speak with you over the phone. If they seem especially receptive, ask them if you can take them for a coffee, or if you can meet in person at their office.

Before the meeting, do your homework. Learn everything you can about their career and their company. Come prepared with a list of questions. If you aren’t sure what to ask, think of things you’d like to know that will help you to understand more about their company, or more about their career path.

Sample questions include: How did you get into marketing? What convinced you to work at your company? What was the process like for you to switch your career path? What do you like the most about your job?

Be prepared to answer questions about yourself too. The most common question is, “Tell me about yourself.” If you aren’t sure what you want to do next, be honest. However, avoid confusing the other person. The fastest way to do this is to provide a laundry list of possibilities for what you want to do next. If you have a few specific choices in mind, speak about the one most relevant to the person you’re talking to.

Be conscious of time. Show up a little early, and be careful not to keep the person too long. Afterward, send a thank you e-mail and a hand written thank you note. And, don’t forget to connect to the person on LinkedIn and to check in occasionally. The connections created from an informational interview can often turn into a new job offer in the long run.

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

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