Social media thought leader interview and written profile
Finding someone: Use your creativity to identify an interesting person. It could be one of our speakers, but ideally, it’d be someone you want to work for, have read about, has met before, finds inspiring, etc. They can be anywhere in the world, work for any company, etc. Use Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter for ideas. Ask your friends, professors, and parents who they know!
Contacting them: Be creative and persistent! Try Twitter or LinkedIn? Maybe they have a blog with their contact information? Or call their office and ask to speak with them or their assistant? Or ask a shared friend to introduce you? Have a fallback plan if you can’t reach your target within a week. You are asking for 15-30 minutes of their time to learn about them and their professional success.
In all your communications, be honest, enthusiastic, humble, and grateful. You are asking a favour of a busy person. That said, leaders are usually flattered when asked to help a person looking for advice. Ask them if they prefer a call, a Google Hangout, Skype, etc. Recording the call will require their permission but shouldn’t be a problem.
Interviewing them: I strongly suggest you prepare a one-page interview guide with your topics and questions. This can be sent 2 days before your interview with a polite reminder of your upcoming call. Start the call with a reminder of what you’re doing and a thank you for their precious time. If you’re recording the call, let them know. Then briefly introduce yourself and refresh their memory about your interview guide. Be efficient and don’t waste their time. As soon as possible, let them start talking and reacting to your questions. They may go off-topic — which is OK if you gently steer them back to your questions. Take notes!
Writing about your interview: I’d like to see a write-up of 1000-1250 words where you thoughtfully describe what you heard and learned during your interview. Please do not paraphrase the conversation or submit long verbatim quotes.
Assuming I met Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, I could follow this format:
A. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer [50-150 words]
– who you chose to interview, how you contacted them, why they interest/inspire you, their career path, what parts of their profile you find important, a recent photo, etc.
B. Sheryl Sandberg & My 5 Big Questions [400-500 words]
Your interview guide will likely have 7-10 “big” questions. Share the best 5 of your questions in your write-up and paraphrase what you heard them say. An actual quote or 2 is OK but I’d prefer to have you summarize what you heard using your own words.
Be smart about your “big” questions. You want interesting open-ended ones that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no”. Don’t ask questions that could be answered with a Google search! Tip: use questions with phrases like “why do you say that?”, “why or why not?”, “in your own words, describe …”, “how did that feel?”, “unpack that moment for me”, “I’d like to know more”, “tell me something you don’t usually share”, “any last advice or thoughts for me?”, “what do you wish students like me knew?”, etc.
Possible “big” questions (this is WAY more than you can use in a 30-minute interview and I’d love to see you create your own:
* Can you describe your upbringing and how it helped get you where you are today?
* Was high school or college important to your path? Why do you say that?
* When and how did you find your professional passion?
* How’d your early career go? Were there important milestones like new jobs, key bosses, etc.? Would you change anything you did?
* Did you ever fail badly at something or make a big mistake? How did you bounce back and what did you learn?
* How’d you progress to where you are now? Was it a straight line or somewhat driven by chance? Again, would you change anything you did?
* What’s your typical day look like? Can you walk me through it?
* Who was your best boss? Why? How do you manage and lead people?
* What are the best and worst parts of your current company and role?
* What would you like to be doing professionally in 3-5 years?
* How are you balancing your career and personal life? Are you happy with the balance you have today? Why or why not?
* What advice would you give to a student interested in doing what you do?
* Would you recommend your industry and/or company to your friends and/or children? Why or why not?
* Who do you look to for professional advice and inspiration? How have they helped you?
* In 5-10 years, how do you think your industry, company, and/or role will be different? Will that be good or bad?
* How do you personally use social media?
* What do you think the biggest change in social media will be over the next 5 years?* Outside of work, can I ask what you do for fun and relaxation?
C. What I Learned [300-400 words]
Step back after your interview and think about what you learned. What surprised you? Disappointed you? Confirmed something you had already believed? How might the conversation change your plans for job searching?
Grading your write-up: Overall, I’ll be looking for signs that you took the project seriously, attacked it with enthusiasm, followed my instructions, and learned something useful from your work. The course syllabus has my grading rubric, but note what an “A” looks like:
Outstanding, insightful work. Goes beyond the requirements of the task to develop a response, which is thoughtful, reflective, considers alternative views and makes connections among ideas and information from different sources or from different aspects of the course. Well researched and documented (if research is part of the assignment). Displays creativity and originality.
What might originality and creativity look like? A photo/screenshot with your interviewee, a funny story or anecdote, interview questions that are different and better than my suggestions, a short video hello from your interviewee, etc.
Lastly, don’t let this project spin out of control. Find your interview topic SOON and lock in your time to talk. This will be harder and take more time than you expect. And plan your “big” questions with care. You’ll only have the ear of these leaders for 15-30 minutes. What do YOU want to know? For more information on Social Media check on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media
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