Networking Interview

The Importance of a good informational interview is it gives you a chance to interact and learn from someone who has years of experience in a field of study that you are interested in. You learn valuable tools and lessons that will help you succeed in the near future. It could also shape the way you go about looking for a job when you graduate college. A good informational interview isn’t just about interacting with an individual it’s about listening to what they are actually saying and applying to your life so you can succeed.

The Contact

· Title/Position: Vice President of Operations

· Company: TCF Bank

· Industry: Banking/Business

(First Person Quotations)

Questions about the Contact

Q: How did you get started out at TCF and why did you choose to work there?

Answer: “I had just finished up college and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my career. I had a business degree from St. Cloud State and all I knew was I had to get a job. I applied for several different jobs, had several interviews, but what I interviewed at TCF it just felt right, I knew that I wanted to work here because I could see that this place was something special.”

Q: Where did you start out at TCF, like what department?

Answer: “Well I started out at the bottom with all of the other new hires. I was part of our branch team where we would overlook and see how operations were going on at all of our branches in Minnesota.”

Q: What steps did you take to become the Vice President of Operations at TCF?

Answer: “Well as I explained earlier, I worked for the department that oversaw all the bank branches and made sure the operations were running smoothly. I worked my tail off, I was probably working almost 60 hours a week for my manager. He was an older gentlemen and I knew if he saw that I was focused, determined, and hardworking that I would be an ideal replacement for him when he retired. So when he retired they promoted me to manager of that department. I started working with the higher-ups in the company and by the time I was about 36 or 37 and some of the executives were leaving they promoted me to the Vice President of Operations.”

Q: How does the Banking Industry differ from other businesses?

Answer: “Banking is not so much B2B like you would see at a P&G company it is more about how can we offer the best service. We are more of a service than a product kind of company. We need to see what the industry averages are for like APR, mortgage rates, and accept/decline rates on loans. After we see those rates from other competitors we have to see how we can beat them. We need to see what incentives make people open a checking account. However, with banking comes great responsibility, in the Banking World you are always on watch with the public so you have to make sure to always be responsible. It is a very different world than B2B but it is always a new experience every day.”

Questions about Communications Practices and Writing

Could you please describe the typical kinds of writing you do and tell me a bit about each?

“Yes of course, every day I send numerous emails to coworkers or even my boss, no matter how high up you are at a company you will most likely always have someone to report to. I need to be careful with every email I send because I need to act as a leader and have a business appropriate tone. I rarely actually write anything out, I mostly just type up memos or emails for my employees to read. However, Banking is a fast paced industry and we tend to abbreviate a lot of things so you need to make sure when you’re a business email to reread it several times so that it makes sense and you don’t add any lingo that is unknown to others.”

What do you find most challenging about your day-to-day writing? What challenges do recent graduates face as they move from “academic writing” to “workplace writing”?

“The thing I find the most challenging about my day to day writing at work is finding time to actually write out my emails. So many times I want to just reply to the email with the simplest answer but unfortunately I can’t do that. I have to manage my time appropriately, I set aside 30 to 45 minutes just to respond to emails a day. I think the biggest challenges I see for most recent graduates is their writing lacks professionalism. In an age dominated by cell phones and technology many recent grads lack the necessary vocabulary or drive to actually type everything out and use slang words to express how they are feeling. I’m not perfect either, I get lazy and sometimes do the same thing but one piece of advice I have for you is to take the time to write a professional email, it will go a long way. Also don’t be afraid to respond to an email with a thank you or write a personal thank you letter it will mean a whole lot more to that person than you think.”

How would you describe the balance between written and oral communication in your workplace?

“I would say the balance between written and oral communication in my workplace is like 30/70. I usually only communicate through IM’s or emails 30% of the time. The other 70% of the time I am communicating through my words (orally). That being said the most important thing to remember when communicating orally is to focus on the person or persons you are talking to you and give them your full undivided attention. Don’t be looking elsewhere or looking down at your phone when they are talking, that is just rude and they will remember that when you come to them and ask them for help in the future. I would also say, be careful about what you say, it is a lot easier to make mistakes when you speak out loud. The reason my communication is more verbal is because I am so busy during the day and if I need some answers, need to speak to someone, or just want to explain something it is much easier to verbally communicate than to email someone. Verbal communication is very important now a days. You need to have good public speaking skills and you also need to have good presenting skills. I know there are many bright minds out there today, who can get answers and results, but if they can’t present the information effectively well then it just won’t work out. Overall I think the best thing you can do when communicating verbally is to display confidence.”

Questions seeking Advice for you

Q: What skill do you think is the most important to have in the business world?

Answer: “I definitely think great verbal communication skills is the most important thing you can develop for the business world. I also think being a well-rounded individual will help you go far in this world. One piece of advice I have for you is to get everything you can out of school and learn as much as you can because it will help you out as you start your career.”

Q: When looking at a resume what do you specifically look for?

Answer: “For me personally, I look for an individual who has done a lot of extracurricular activities, volunteered, and has done a lot of projects. This shows that they are willing to go the extra mile for their co-workers, the company, and themselves. It also shows that they will be able to handle whatever challenges they may face and that they will be able to balance their work life and social life outside of work.”

Q: What advice do you have for me as I graduate next May and start looking for a job or career path?

Answer: “Well all I can say is don’t settle, yes you may have to work at a lower paying job for a while, but don’t ever settle. Work your tail off and show them that they made the right decision in hiring you. However, do something you love, if you love what you do then work will be easy. I know you said you were an Analytics major. I have great confidence that you will find something out there relatively quick because it is one of the fastest growing industries out there and we have already hired 5 full-time business analyst in the past 2 years. I just want to say, you are young, enjoy it, and best of luck to you and your future endeavors.”

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Overall, I thought this was a great informational interview. The experience was more than I could have asked for. I learned that a lot of communication in the business world is verbal and not written. However it is still important to have great written and oral communication skills. I learned that if you work hard, do everything you are ask for and then some you can really make it in this tough world. I was surprised to learn that he has to spend 30 to 45 minutes a day just reading and responding to emails. The main idea of this interview is to develop great oral and verbal communication skills at a young age, don’t develop bad habits, and work hard. Yet, I think the main takeaway from this interview was you can be very smart, have great data and answers but if you can’t present the information in front of others you will have a tough time in the business field. In the future I will remember that although I may be able to analyze everything and have all the right answers but that won’t mean anything unless I can effectively communicate my ideas through verbal communication. All in all, I think this interview was very helpful and I learned so much. The business world is a very challenging place to make it nowadays, you have to great intellectual, verbal, and written skills in order to succeed.