One of the most common issues college students and recent grads bring into a career counseling session is the feeling that they have no idea what they want to do with their life! This is actually not really a problem and is in fact VERY normal. One of the easiest ways to get some clarity about your career path is to conduct informational interviews early and often. Read on below for more information about how informational interviews can lead you to your dream job.
What is informational interviewing?
An informational interview is a casual conversation with someone in a career field that interests you. Of course you can research online and read books about potential careers but informational interviews give you the inside scoop on a particular field. Talking with someone in your desired field can help you narrow down your own career search. It is also not a job interview but it is a great way to build your professional network!
What’s so great about informational interviewing?
● Gain real life information, including the good and the bad aspects of a particular job
● Understand the possible steps you need to take to achieve a certain career goal
● Build your professional network
● Evaluate if a certain job or industry is right for you
● Obtain ideas to help improve your resume and get valuable up-to-date feedback
How do I organize an informational interview?
1. Do your research first! Create a list of potential jobs/industries that you would like more information about. You can do this by researching jobs online on Indeed.com, BLS.Gov or Linkedin.com.
2. Get contacts! Ask professors, co-workers, classmates, counselors at your school’s career center and your SRA family if they know anyone in your desired field.
3. Reach out to your new contact by sending an email or calling them. Introduce yourself, tell them how you got their contact information. Explain to them that you are looking for information to help with your career search (and that you are not looking for a job). Finally, ask if they would be willing to meet with you (in person is ideal) for 20-30 minutes to discuss their career. Remember always to be polite and follow through on all commitments.
What kind of questions should I ask?
● What is your typical day like?
● What skills and knowledge are essential to this job?
● What is your favorite part of your job?
● What is your least favorite part of your job?
● What did you study in college? Do you think it helped prepare you for your current job?
● What jobs have you had in the past?
● What industries or jobs are similar to the one you have?
● What is the opportunity for career growth in this field?
● Is there any educational requirements for an entry level job in your field?
● What is the starting salary for entry-level jobs in this field?
● How can I make myself competitive in this field?
● What’s one thing you wish you knew about this job or industry before you started out?
● Is there anyone else you suggest I speak with?
What else should I know about informational interviewing?
Treat an informational interview much like you would treat a normal interview. Dress professionally and make sure you know where you are meeting in advance. It’s essential to arrive a few minutes early and never overstay your welcome and monopolize the other person’s time. Also similar to an interview it’s okay (actually encouraged) to prepare a list of questions and notes to refer to if necessary. Finally always send a thank you note within 24 hours of your meeting.
A few quick “To-Don’ts”
● Do NOT arrive late
● Do NOT ask for a job/internship EVER during an informational interview
● Do NOT ask the person’s salary, this is very inappropriate
Alright, now that you know what informational interviewing is all about make sure to get started as soon as possible. Ideally, you should conduct a few informational interviews per semester but conduct more if you are graduating soon!
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