People learn in many different ways; college degrees, certifications, and on the job training are just a few examples. This summer at Inspiring Capital, however, I have been fortunate to experience what I believe is one of the best ways of learning and that is listening to stories. Our speakers (storytellers) this summer come from an impressive background of nonprofit consulting, capital markets, philanthropy, impact investing, academia, and social entrepreneurship and have clever and witty stories to tell! They share stories about their work, organizations, aspirations, challenges, and successes and in doing so open up the floodgates of knowledge and inspiration in a more meaningful way. No text book or google search can ever match this learning experience. Closely tied to this idea oScreen Shot 2014-08-06 at 10.43.49 AMf learning from others and their stories is the informational interview. The power of informational interviews, especially when pursuing a job, is often underestimated and underutilised. Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Ben Carpenter, the author of the book “The Bigs”. In his book, Ben writes about his career and life, lessons learnt, and shares his infinite wisdom and real life practical examples on how to prepare for a career in today’s tough and competitive world. He reminds us and draws attention to the informational interview as one of the most important tools for a job seeker.  Here are a few excerpts from his book:

You need to understand that in business nobody does it on their own. Throughout your career, in an infinite variety of ways, you will depend on other people (and them on you). As a college student or young professional you need to get with this program right now and, without embarrassment or false pride, develop and use all your contacts.

“In the real world what is rewarded is both the ability to think creatively (not simply remember what you’ve been taught) and to have a network of strong professional relationships”

LinkedIn, job fairs, and online job boards are surely useful to a job seeker, but the valuable insights and networks one can establish through informational interviews is definitely worth the time and effort.

-Andrea D'Souza