Every good job and career decision you will ever make will be based on good information. One of the most productive ways to gather such information is to talk to people who are in the career field, organization or job you might want to pursue. Informational interviewing provides an opportunity to gather information and gain insights that will be valuable in your job search. It is a chance to gain knowledge about what organizations look for in candidates and to develop your career network.
Your first thought may be: "Who can I talk with to learn about the ins and outs of pursuing a career in my field of interest?" The best career information comes from people who are active and knowledgeable in the field.
Your reaction to the above recommendation may be: "How can I expect these people to give me the time? I'm not even sure I want to be in their field. I am embarrassed to ask." Keep in mind that most people like to talk about themselves and their work, if approached properly and sensitively. If they are satisfied with their jobs, they enjoy sharing that enthusiasm with others. People who are not happy are often willing to "tell it like it is" to help others avoid the pitfalls they have encountered.
Be prepared before the interview by learning as much as possible about the career through research. Be prepared with specific questions you want to ask so you can use the person's valuable time productively. During the interview select the questions that are most appropriate to ask. Generally, the interview lasts about 20 or 30 minutes. Do not overstay your welcome.
You can initially contact people for informational interviews by telephone or email.
For each telephone request you make for an informational interview, remember all of these steps:
For each email request you send, be sure to include:
Prepare a list of questions to ask. Be ready to present a two to three minute summary about yourself. It is very important for you to present this profile about yourself so that the person can give you feedback about whether or not this career will be a good fit for you. Below are some questions you might find useful in the informational interview. Use these as a guide and add questions that are important to you.
Follow-up is important after an informational interview. Write a thank you letter expressing your appreciation for the person's time, information and interest. One goal of informational interviewing is to generate an ongoing list of names of people to meet with in the career area you are investigating. If you decide you want to work in this field after you have gathered knowledge, you then have a network of contacts that could lead to employment.
Keep accurate records of your informational interviews. This will enable you to evaluate the career information you have received and measure it in relation to your own interests and needs. Develop a recording system that works for you. You might keep a notebook or use index cards to file the information for future review.