Yesterday I was invited at the Rotman School of Management’s Business Edge program for mentoring the current cohort during the Informational Interview BootCamp. It was my pleasure to enlighten the cohort since I’ve heavily invested in using this tool for networking within my industry and I have managed to make some awesome connections. Through the Business Edge program I also get to work with a diverse batch of internationally educated alumnae who bring their varied industry experience from all parts of the world! It’s always a pleasure to be invited back to the program as a graduate and today was one such special day. The format of the BootCamp matches individual professionals with a program graduate based on their future career interest & line of work.
The BootCamp, which is held once for every cohort at the Rotman campus, brings together a varied blend of experienced graduates from Business Edge’s fine legacy and lends a no-risk-no-obligation opportunity to practice the principles of informational interviews. This was also a great setting for me to meet my fellow graduates from past cohorts – or as I call it, networking within a diverse network. This is also that occasion when I get to mingle, meet, and to share my aspirations and career learnings one-on-one with the illustrious Rotman faculty, especially Sabina and Val. To put it all in a nutshell, yesterday was a memorable day for me!
At the BootCamp, I was part of ‘Group 8’ and matched with Ali, a UX design professional from the integrated marketing/design industry background. I was sharing the table with my graduate partner Shahla (Cohort 7) from the media and entertainment industry who was matched with Gerard who is looking to be in the same field. Likewise there were 16 other high profile graduates who were performing the role of mentors in guiding the participants to understand the delicate balance which they need to maintain during a networking process.
Each participant was given 20 mins for interviewing the graduate on the research they’d have previously concluded, and take 10-15 mins to gather feedback from the mentors. Overall, it was an enriching exercise which even Ali and Gerard agreed. My feedback mostly included making the talk conversational, smiling more, sticking to the objectives of the interview, not setting a negative tone to the discussion, and using small talk effectively. I couldn’t stress upon this fact more that the primary reason one would conduct an information interview is to bring forward your value as a fine professional.
During the introductions each graduate had to come up with a unique story or a career learning. So when my turn came I mentioned belonging to the niche yet competitive area of Design Thinking and Human Factors and immediately I heard a few gasps in the audience. I’m glad to know that my field of interest evoked such a strong interest with a lot of curious onlookers wanting to discuss this topic up, close and personal at the end of the BootCamp. This resonates completely with my aim to bring forward the value of design thinking and participatory (co-) design to everyone and build a sustainable environment for the future generations. This can only be possible if I connect with people through such events.
As a Rotman cohort I was once part of an Informational Interview BootCamp myself but returning as a mentor yesterday was special in that I discovered that the interviews were not only a way for cohort participants to assess their interviewing skills but for me personally it was to measure how well I had done in the preceding time since my graduation from the program! In each of my comments to Ali and Gerard on developing their interviewing techniques I was observing a change in my approach today versus 6-7 months ago. Informational interviews can be a great exercise to explore a specific industry culture but certain folks have mistaken it as a means of job hunting. Just to remember that when you’ve been accorded 15-20 mins of precious time by a top-level executive, as a job seeker, your primary goal is to know enough about the industry or the company as you strategize towards meeting your career goals. It’d be counterproductive not to utilize that precious time skillfully to your advantage. In that, be mindful if the executive is running away with his/her sweet story during the interview, and without showing arrogance one should be able to maintain a fine balance and talk about how you could bring business value. As one of my fellow graduates pointed out, ‘practicing’ is the only way you can master your interviewing skills and I couldn’t agree much.
After the BootCamp concluded we were ushered into the classroom while Shannon, my favourite (career) coach and the leader of the BootCamp, asked the class to describe their experiences with some positive lessons learned. After the participants came up with their responses it was now time for the visiting graduates to narrate their experience of working with this cohort. For me, I would particularly like to thank Sabina for inviting me back into the Rotman School in a mentoring role, it was so much fun and exciting working with a diverse group of people. And needless to say, I’ll always look forward to coming back to my alma mater in the future!