Even if you are 100 percent happy right where you are, you should always be interviewing.
I have been interviewing, or going on coffee dates, and I have learned so much.
Yes, interviews can be time consuming. There’s prep work, polishing, and what can feel like endless scheduling. However, they can lead to exciting career changes and are unique learning opportunities to better understand your industry and where you fit in it.
Learn about the industry
You have the opportunity to learn more about how a company operates. What is their strategy behind recruiting, hiring, and company culture? How old is the average employee and what does work-life balance look like? What were some recent company challenges—product, market, people—and how were they handled? Think of this as an opportunity to write your own Corner Office piece for The New York Times.
You can also gain insight into what the competitive landscape looks like through someone else’s lens. If you’ve done your homework, you know who the major competitors in the space are. How does the company you’re speaking to see themselves within the current competitive landscape? What are the buzzwords they’re using? Who do they consider their biggest competitors to be? Do you agree?
Learn about yourself
Interviews are a great barometer for understanding what the market thinks of you. You quickly learn which of your skills are in demand, and which are being glossed over. Sometimes you don’t know what your greatest asset is until you see people’s eyes light up in person, or hear about problems you have the skills to solve. You may also learn you’re missing a key skill that can benefit both you and your current employer in the future.
Assess future opportunities
This is also a great time to assess what you do and do not want from your next gig. Whether it’s a specific increase in responsibility, a lateral move for a better cultural fit, perks that are most appealing, or equity, you likely have a sense of your preferences already. Interviews further clarify them. Exercise patience and see where the patterns emerge.
You may also learn (or reaffirm) how happy you are in your current role. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how good you’ve got it until you start to shop around. Prepping for the “greatest accomplishment” question forces you to reflect upon what you’ve accomplished at your current job and all you’ve yet to do there. If you like your job already, that can be hugely motivating and encourage you to take on more responsibility and swing for the fences.
There are dozens of articles in the blogosophere on the importance of “storytelling,” but most miss a simple yet important point: how your story resonates is as much about your audience as it is about you. Interviews are prime learning ground for understanding non-verbal cues, practicing thoughtful listening, and recognizing which parts of your story are most compelling and why.
A/B test your interviews
We in the startup world speak fondly about the benefits of rapid iteration and the importance of data-driven everything (marketing, product development, investing etc). I’d wager that there are similar benefits in applying a data-driven approach to interviewing as well.
This post was originally published on Medium.com.
Have a great idea about what to do in an informational interview or how to stand out in your industry? Tell us in the comments!
Ask Levo Mentor Jehmu Greene, Fox News Political Commentator, her advice for finding the best informational interview around!