Internships, Networking, and Informational Interviewing: How All 3 Helped A Crown Alumna Land A Job

Internships, Networking, and Informational Interviewing: How All 3 Helped A Crown Alumna Land A Job

By Josie Parker

It’s on every college student’s mind – what does it take to land a job after graduation? What is “networking” and how can it benefit students while they are in college and after graduation in their job search? One Crown grad explains her story taking the initiative towards an internship, networking, and informational interviews that helped her find success.

Liana Zook, 2016 Crown College alumna, works in Minneapolis for Words At Work, a marketing agency in the North Loop.

She explains how an internship in college, networking, and informational interviews connected her to a career she loves. Liana says networking and informational interviews are very effective – e.g., they connect and prepare students, and they can help students find job opportunities after graduation.

Zook transferred to Crown her sophomore year of college, majoring in Business Administration and minoring in Marketing. While in school, she realized her passion for marketing and hoped to pursue a career in field.

As a student, Zook saw “networking” as a very intimidating concept. But, she quickly found how heavily job searches revolve around developing contacts with anyone willing to help in the job hunt. While Zook was attending school, her sister worked as an intern at Dell. When an internship position opened there, Zook’s sister recommended her. After one phone interview, two in-person interviews, and an “exercise” to test writing skills, they offered Zook the position.

While interning at Dell, Zook took on many different roles. As a member of the Sales Enablement team, she participated in various marketing tasks. Zook explains her duties at Dell as follows: She contributed material to a weekly internal newsletter, editing or promoting content received by over 22,000 salespeople. She posted on various social media networks and managed Dell’s sales-focused mobile app. She contributed to a variety of spontaneous projects, helping create content or solving any inefficiencies the project team encountered. Zook explains the most valuable characteristic she developed at Dell was the commitment to say “yes.”

“While some of my role was assigned to me initially, a lot of what ended up as part of my skill set came through listening for anything I could help solve and saying ‘yes’ to any opportunity to learn something new,” Zook says. “[My team] would come to me with all kinds of questions, knowing I’d take the time to search for a solution.”

After graduation, Zook began searching for positions that accepted her experience and passion for marketing. She began the long process of informational interviews and submitting many job applications. But, she realized the importance of informational interviews when a previous Dell connection helped land her a job in Minneapolis at a marketing agency.

So what are informational interviews?

Informational interviews are similar to job interviews without the conversation about hiring or a specific position. The job-seeker asks questions or seeks advice about a specific career field. In these interviews, the employer learns more about the job-seeker’s personality, making a lasting impression that could result in a position.

“An informational interview is a useful tool [students] can use to learn about the real-life professional experience of someone working in a field, company, or position that interests a student” says Darren Noble, the Director of Career Services at Crown College. “During an informational interview the student asks questions in order to gain a better understanding—and to build a network of contacts. The information gained, along with the contacts and networking experience, is extremely valuable for one’s career development journey.”

While the interview may not end with a job offer, the job-seeker can obtain valuable information about other potential employers or connections.

“I probably did around 10 informational interviews,” Zook explains. “You get to know people, their background, their company. I learned a lot from them. I’d ask for resume advice, etc. When you’re job searching, you want to impress everyone you meet. You never know who may be hiring now, or in the future.”

While informational interviews can lead job-seekers to potential employers, Zook found many of these interviews ended in her asking, “Is there anyone else you know who you think might be willing to sit down with me?” While she met and connected with many different people, one connection proved to be successful.

“My sister knew one of the employees at Words At Work because they’d worked together at Dell before my time. Near the end of school, my sister asked [the employee] if I could come for an informational interview. I did, and I ended up meeting with both the co-owners of the company,” she explains.

A few months later, the agency contacted Zook and offered her a position. She now works as an Account Executive in Minneapolis and enjoys every aspect of her new career.

Informational interviewing and internship experience in general proved to be vital elements for finding a job. Zook understands how college students might be intimidated by the idea of finding internships, conducting an informational interview, or networking, but a bit of initiative and practice can lead to success.

“If you’re feeling daunted by the whole process, don’t think I had it all figured out,” Zook advises. “Be persistent, start early, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’ll get where you need to be.”