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183: My Favourite Practice for Living a Connected Creative Life



It comes as no surprise that interviews can be intimidating. Full stop.


Yes, AND I believe that there are ways to use interviewing to our advantage, make genuine connections and boost creative confidence in the process. Here’s how:


Let's start with the two big categories of interviews: job interviews and informational interviews. The goal of the former is to fill a position that’s a good fit for all parties, while the goal of the latter is to make a connection, learning about someone’s stories in the process. 


Today's focus is on informational interviews. These types of interactions live between formal and informal; purpose-filled and open-ended. And they hold so much  possibility.


Reaching out to someone who is working in the job you hope to have one day or to someone who is doing interesting creative projects that align with your interests is the perfect reason to make a connection.  Informational interviewing provides incredible opportunities for learning from others’ lived experiences, which strengthens our understanding of the world AND it allows us to make a new contact who may turn out to be a collaborator on future projects (this has been true for me on multiple occasions). All of this helps to boost our creative confidence in the process. 


I don't love networking. It can feel forced, awkward and like the person with loudest voice often garners the greatest attention. But the process of informational interviewing flips traditional networking on its head: it's not one-to-many, spontaneous, out-of-control process; it’s a a one-on-one, planned, in-control process, which is wonderful for both those who love talking and those who are more shy in traditional networking situations.


Even if you don’t know the person you’re reaching out to (yet!), people love to talk about themselves and their creative journeys. Often you just need to ask.


But I’m right there with you that cold calling can feel scary, impersonal and downright icky. However, the opposite of a ‘cold call’ is a ‘warm email’; a polite, positive and to-the-point written communication to act as an introduction. (More on warm emails in a minute.)


But what happens if that person you reach you to doesn't respond? 


I recommend giving them the benefit of the doubt that they’re busy or away or the timing just isn’t right, and not that you did anything wrong (it’s not you, it’s them and that’s totally fine). It's your job to then reach out to the next person and the next and the next, knowing that (just like sales), asking for the coffee chat or the Zoom call is a numbers game. Cast a wide net and reach out to lots of people, knowing you may get a couple of responses over dozens of emails. This is a realistic way to approach the process.


Before you know it, you’ll have a whole new network of creative confidants to learn from and explore with. This is exactly what’s happened to me over the 4 years since starting this podcast. While I started in 2019 with a shaky voice with my head stuck in a box, there’s a whole community of people now with me on the journey. In the past 4 years I’ve had the chance to work with over 100 individuals with whom I never would have never met with if it weren’t for the podcast (an informational interviewing hive in disguise). ;)


I love being able to show the process of seeking out and reaching out to potential interviewees in my Advanced Typography course. As a class, we collectively make a list of people in the type world we’d love to talk to and I send them all a warm email or direct message using an approachable templated process. I make all of these messages available so that students can see how I make the initial approach through to landing the interview. They can also see that I contact more people than I think I’ll need to in order to secure a few interviews, helping to provide some realistic expectations around the process.


Using this same process of seeking out and reaching out, I encourage all senior students (in the final year or two of their undergrad or at a graduate level) to aim for one informational interview a month. Being a current student provides an incredible reason to talk to those in industry, however I encourage you to find reasons to connect beyond the classroom after graduation. Imagine moving through your professional life, maintaining the momentum of 1 informational interview each month. This represents 12 connections each year, 120 connections in a decade, hundreds and hundreds more over a life time. I can think of few better ways to spend time to progress professionally.


It's not to say that informational interviews get you the job (that should NOT be the core motive for reaching out), but I've had individuals who have asked me for an informational interview, I then saw were passionate, capable, proactive, kind humans... just the kind of people I would love to work with. These students and recent grads have gone on to work with me in teaching assistant capacities in courses, as well as co-publishing articles, co-creating episodes for this podcast, guest lecturing in my classes and being recommended for roles that I hear about through my networks. It's a mutually-beneficial relationship that may blossom sooner or later into something much bigger than a single 20 or 30 minute conversation. You just never know until you make that initial connection.


"It's who you know that gets you your next job." is only half correct.

"It's who knows you, that gets you your next job." is much more accurate.


Get in front of others, showing that you’re curious and caring, remaining open to a conversation that may or may not lead somewhere incredible (for the both of you!).


Have I convinced you that informational interviewing can be a beautiful way of life to connect with creative people?


To help get started, I've shared my 'Warm Email Template' in the show notes at www.talkpaperscissors.info. This template makes reaching out to someone you admire, but don’t know personally, an easier task. It’s one I use all the time for connecting with new podcast guests, which results in extremely high reply rates. This template is based on my corporate sales training, my years helping students find internships through cold-calling and my own trial and error, 15 years in the making.


In this resource, I also share what to do next after you make the initial connection; what to do once someone says 'yes!'.


Happy connecting!




Remixed by Diana




Music: It Was Another Time by John Bartmann, Licensed Under CC0 1.0 Universal


Talk Paper Scissors Theme Music: Retro Quirky Upbeat Funk by Lewis Sound Production via Audio Jungle


Boat Origami Photo: Boat Origami Photo by Alex on Unsplash

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