In informational interviews, you’re not supposed to ask for a job. A primary purpose of the informational interview is, in fact, to help you shed the role of job seeker so that you don’t have to follow the rules for job seekers. But if you’re not talking to a contact about a job, and you’ve already finished the informational interview, why would someone want to stay in touch with you? This is a common question I get in my presentation. Student have a hard time thinking about how to be a valuable member of someone’s network without necessarily being a job candidate. Here are some ideas:
Remember that the single most important thing you have to offer is a genuinely interested ear. If you value what your contact says, and let him/her know about it from time to time, you are offering quite a bit.
Making an effort to give will separate you from 95% of all other people – and it doesn’t even matter how valuable what you’re giving actually is. Just the attempt to positively impact someone else’s life will make you stand out as someone different. (For some specific ideas on how to do this, check this article on follow up).
Can you learn something about your contact’s personal life? If so, your chances of making a connection are stronger. Like everyone else, your contacts’ personal lives will generally be more important to them than their professional lives. If people share with you element of their personal life that you can relate to (or that you share in common), it will be very useful when you try to stay in touch. If your contact has kids, there is nothing more important to that person. Can you do something to help your contact’s kids? If so, watch the strength of your connection rapidly grow!
Many people have a side project or a desire for notoriety in something they are passionate about. People have blogs, side businesses, non-profits, hobbies, etc. Can you do something to help your contact succeed? Can you write a positive review about that person somewhere? LinkedIn, Amazon, Yelp? I know first hand the gratitude I feel when someone takes time out to write a positive review of my book on Amazon. It makes a strong positive impression and I am much more likely to stay in touch with the person who wrote it.