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The Question

I am a 25-year-old male who is just completing a graduate degree in international relations. Next week, I am going to Ottawa for a couple of informational interviews, but I was also planning on dropping off résumés and cover letters at the offices of political officials and political strategy firms. Do you have any advice for dropping off résumés in person? How forward can you be about asking to speak with someone? And how can you be most effective in informational interviews?

The Answer

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Firstly, reflect on why you went into international relations. What did you envision yourself doing once you had your degree? Write this down as well as how you see your career unfolding. This will help prepare you for your meetings in Ottawa and what you will ask key officials about their own career paths.

Do your research on the government agencies, political strategy firms and the key public officials you're interested in as you prepare for the informational interviews and make connections with the various agencies in Ottawa.

Next, develop a list of relevant events and projects as well as a list of questions that you would like to discuss with the officials of each organization.

Then, use your personal and social-media network to identify people who know officials and staff in those organizations. Ask people if they can give you background on the agencies and the officials that work for them. In addition, ask them if they are willing to be a reference for you.

Make sure you keep track of all these contacts and members of your network, and be ready to refer to them in your informational interviews or your visits to the various agencies and firms.

Don't go on your trip without first lining up as many in-person information interviews in advance as opposed to simply dropping off résumés unannounced.

You are more likely to get noticed and make connections by speaking to the officials beforehand and setting up brief meetings. Front-line staff are trained to manage and protect their bosses' time, especially from surprise visitors and last minute requests. Otherwise, they will simply take your résumé, indicate that their boss is busy, and send you on your way. And your résumé might get filed in the recycle bin.

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That is unless you indicate that you have an appointment or know someone at the organization.

Don't be afraid to be bold when you contact key officials in advance of your trip. If you don't have direct or indirect leads from your network then tell them you have heard great things about them and their organization. Let them know that you are a graduate student who will be in Ottawa and that you would love to have a quick meeting. The key is to be prepared, use your network, and to set meetings up in advance, whenever possible.

Bruce Sandy is principal of and Pathfinder Coaching & Consulting.

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