By: Jillian Perkins-Marsh, alumni career counsellor 

For folks who are trying to figure out what an occupation is really like before taking the leap or for those trying to build their connections to help with their job search efforts, informational interviews can be extremely helpful. Really, what is better than one-on-one time with someone who can offer you career advice at minimum, and at the end of the spectrum, if all goes well, someone who may offer to pass along your resume to the right people and tell you about unadvertised jobs?

Informational interviews can be a highly effective way to build connections. If the meetings are done right, they can be an amazing way to make a positive first impression with a professional in your field of interest.

Be sure to be genuine in your interest in connecting and to follow up – and avoid the pitfall of ‘transactional networking’. The idea that networking is about focusing on the number of interactions, rather than the quality of the relationships. This is absolutely not what effective networking should involve. Life gets busy. But that is no excuse for not staying in touch and responding to others in a timely way…especially when you initiated the connection.

Try and think from the other person’s perspective. After you reach out to the person you were referred to in a timely manner, remember to circle back to your original contact to update them about your conversation and thank them again. Completing the networking circle will maintain relationships and not leave them wondering if you ever followed up with their suggestion.

These are the kind of recommendations that can help you turn a good strategy for building and using your network into a good and successful strategy for building and using your network, and that can make all the difference.

If you are looking to build your network and don’t know where to start, visit Firsthand, our online networking and mentorship platform. On Firsthand you will find McMaster alumni ready to have career conversations with you and give you advice on how to land a job in the industry of your dreams.

Visit to create your profile today, and potentially find your career match! It’s free, easy to use and right at your fingertips.  Any questions at all, email

Watch for upcoming employer – student networking event on March 14 – part of Career Month!


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This marks the end of my second year writing for The Silhouette. Last year was the first time I ever got my feet wet in the world of sports writing. It was something I wanted to get into since high school and McMaster gave me a great outlet. This year I was the Sports Reporter for the school paper and got a better feel of what sports journalism as a job felt like in a university setting.

This opportunity has allowed me to have conversations with people I never thought I would talk to and develop a love for my school I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. It has opened doors that would’ve remained closed. I don’t know what my McMaster experience would be like if I didn’t walk into The Silhouette’s office in September 2014.

A little initiative on my part went a long way.

One of the first things I learned at The Silhouette was that my job wasn’t to write recaps or “gamers.” That’s boring and it would be a waste of my time and your time. As a student writer on a university campus that has teams that participate at the provincial and national levels in the OUA and CIS, I have a landscape full of potential content awaiting me. Access to student-athletes, coaches and games were at my fingertips. I have unique inside access to these things because I am a student here. Outside journalists don’t have this access.

I had classes with student-athletes and made friends with them even before getting this writing job. I learned right away from my former Sports Editor Scott Hastie that I should not hesitate to take advantage of the opportunities I have right in front of me. I started to meet with coaches and student-athletes regularly and quickly learned that, while they do hold respected positions in the sports world, they are human beings with stories.

They are not that much different from you and I.

This opportunity has allowed me to have conversations with people I never thought I would talk to and develop a love for my school I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. It has opened doors that would’ve remained closed. 

The more I talked to these people and wrote about them I started to see it as more than a job. I genuinely enjoyed getting to hear their thoughts and understand their perspectives. As time went on my interviews felt more and more like conversations, which by the way, is how it’s supposed to be. I remember being nervous before some of my first interviews back in 2014, but now I just embrace each one as another chance to understand a person and their profession. Scott Radley, from The Hamilton Spectator, told me that a good sports writing piece will have the ability to make someone who wasn’t at the game or someone who knows nothing about sports want to read what I wrote.

Regardless of age or background, humans like to read about other humans. Telling human stories is when the best writing comes out. It doesn’t even have to be sports. Sports Reporter is my job title, but what I’m doing is telling the stories of human beings through the language of sports — a language I just so happen to speak.

This year I came to this realization: it’s about relationships and people.

It always has been and it always will be no matter what my job title is.

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