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How to reach out to someone whose career you admire

Ben, 26, moved to London for university. After graduating, he struggled to find work. Now, Ben works for an international recruitment agency. With a few years' experience helping others along their career paths, he shares some advice on how you can increase your employability by reaching out to those with careers you admire.

5 March 2021

Speaking with people who are in the job you aspire to do can be incredibly valuable. But it can also feel daunting. Where do you start? What do you talk about?

There's nothing to lose by reaching out to someone with an interesting job to see if they'll speak with you. It doesn't have to be a formal or even a long-term relationship: a single call with someone can provide great insight on what their job looks like, what skills are in-demand, and how you might be able to further your career.

Once you've got something set up, here are some things you can keep in mind to make sure the call goes well.

What do you want to get from the call? 

There are multiple ways in which this conversation can be valuable. It can give you greater knowledge of the industry and required skillset, and can help you understand what your trajectory might look like. 

Set an initial agenda. 

For example: thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, I really appreciate it! It would be really valuable for me to understand:

  • what you do day-to-day
  • what your career journey has looked like
  • to hear some of the skills you think are vital
  • and – if we’ve got enough time - to get any other advice you might be able to offer 
  • how does that sound to you?

Don't be put off if they're only able to cover some of these in a single call – you can still get a lot of insight from any one of these points. 

Understanding role responsibilities is key to building credibility when you speak with future employers. And hearing what other people like and find challenging about their role can help you decide if it's a good fit for you. Of course, this is subjective, so take it with a pinch of salt - but it's useful to know, nonetheless. Finally, they may be able to point you in the right direction toward any further resources.

Here is some inspiration to kickstart a conversation in these areas:

Example questions: 

About current role: 

  • What are your day to day duties/responsibilities? 
  • How much of your time is spent across each task? 
  • Which projects are you involved in? 
  • What’s the most challenging part of the job?
    • Which areas come naturally, and which have you concentrated on learning more in?
  • What’s a key challenge the industry is facing currently?  

About personal elements:

  • What are some things you’re proud of? 
  • Which part of the job do you enjoy the most? 
    • How come? 
  • What motivated you to move to your current job? 
  • What has been your career journey? 
    • Is there a typical journey in this field? 
    • Do you feel your journey has been atypical? In what sense?

About candidates’ skillsets: 

  • What are the in-demand skills currently? How do you see that changing over time? 
  • What should junior candidates be concentrating on learning? 

Advice: 

It’s hard for people to give personal advice if they don’t know you – good advice depends on what you personally want to do. You can either tell them a bit about you and where you want to be and ask if they’ve got any tips on how to get there. Or, you can keep it general:

  • How would you suggest a junior candidate makes themselves valuable in this field?
  • Any training they should do? Someone else they should speak to?
  • What are the key soft skills a new starter should master?

The information an experienced candidate can provide could help you understand the next step in your career. And you might be surprised how many people are willing to talk about their jobs if you politely approach them!