One of the best ways to learn about careers in specific industries, as well as career opportunities, is to reach out to your network. You may not even be aware of this, but just by talking with family, friends, co-workers, previous employers, etc. about your career interests and current search may open the door to job opportunities that you may not have found if you hadn’t engaged in these conversations.
Another way of building your professional network is to conductinformational interviews with industry professionals. An informational interview involves talking with people who are currently working in your desired field to:
- Gain a better understanding of an occupation or industry
- Build a network of contacts in that field
To begin this process, identify people in companies of interest and contact them to schedule an informational interview. Explain why you want to meet with him/her and that you would like to schedule an appointment if possible. Try to meet in his/her workplace. You can learn more by
being there. Be clear that you are seeking career information, not job offers. Employers typically will grant informational interviews when they firmly trust that you will not hit them up for a job. Ask friends, professors, family members, past employers, and alumni for leads/contact information for
individuals that may provide valuable information relating to your interests.
WHY DO INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS?
Excerpts from Informational Interviewing Guide:
•To gain valuable information for your job search and career planning (e.g. choosing an academic major or career). It's a good way to "reality check" what you've read, heard, and think.
• To learn about a particular organization, how you might fit in, and what problems or needs the employer has. Knowing these things will help you slant your qualifications towards the needs of the organization.
• To gain experience and self-confidence in interviewing with professionals through discussing yourself and your career interests.
• To enlarge your circle of "expert" contacts in the area. REMEMBER, IT IS WHO YOU KNOW (OR GET TO KNOW) THAT GETS YOU A JOB. It's never too early to establish contacts.
• To ask for other referrals (e.g., "Can you suggest some other people that I might talk to about jobs in this field?")
Informational Interviewing IS NOT a job interview or a place where you ask for a job. You should also not consider it your first or exclusive source of information.
Informational Interviewing Resources:
Listed below are points to include when sending a request for an informational interview through email or on LinkedIn.
Date of Letter
Listed below are questions that you might ask during an informational interview:
• What is your job like?
- A typical day?
- What do you do? What are the duties, functions, responsibilities of your job?
- What kinds of problems do you deal with?
- What kinds of decisions do you make?
- What percentage of your time is spent doing what?
- How does the time use vary? Are there busy and slow times or is the work activity fairly constant?
• How did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
• How did you get your job? What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position?
• Can you suggest some ways a student could obtain this necessary experience?
• What are the various jobs in this field or organization?
• Why did you decide to work for this company?
• What do you like most about this company?
• Do you find your job exciting or boring? Why?
• How does a person progress in your field? What is a typical career path in this field or organization?
- What is the best way to enter this occupation?
- What are the advancement opportunities?
- What are the major qualifications for success in this occupation?