Around the age of 10, you start thinking about your career path. This is usually when adults begin asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Once you’ve worked through the fireman, astronaut and ballerina phase, you begin to focus on a more definitive career path. This focus should carry you through to college where you begin to structure your curriculum around a chosen career.
How to Use Informational Interviews to Explore Careers
Of course, just because you’re majoring in business or law doesn’t mean that is where you have to end up. One way to help you make an informed decision about your options is to conduct a series of informational interviews. This is where you’ll have the chance to talk to professionals who are currently working in a particular job that you might have your sights on. You’re not interviewing for a post, but instead gathering pertinent data that will help you make an informed decision about where you want to be headed after college and beyond.
Here’s how to conduct an informational interview:
Find the Right People
No matter what career path you choose, there are already hundreds – if not thousands – of folks already ensconced in those positions. These are the people you want to seek out for your informational interview. Start with your circle of friends and relatives. You might be surprised to find out how many degrees of separation there are between your cousin and your dream job.
If you can’t make a connection from a personal recommendation, then try to find out the organizations, unions or other guilds that represent personnel in that career. It’s a safe bet that those groups all have their own websites and outreach programs to help facilitate the very thing you’re looking to accomplish.
Ask for the Interview
Once you’ve selected your interview subject, you’ll want to make a formal request for your session. Although a phone call can get the job done, it might help to begin the introduction through an email. This will give you a chance to explain who you are, what your interests are and why you’ve chosen this person to speak with. It might help to drop in some of your special qualifications such as being a veteran or a current grad student, or simply your shared connection.
Let them know you only plan on taking up about 15 to 30 minutes of their time and it could happen over the phone or in person. You want to impress them with your professionalism and make sure the interview won’t be a burden.
Do Your Homework
Once you’ve got your interview lined up, it’s time to do your homework. Remember, you’ll be asking all the questions and it can’t just be, “How much do you make?” In fact, it should never be that. You should thoroughly research the company to find out what they’re all about. Look up the person you’re interviewing. They might have given a speech or published a paper on a particular aspect of their career. Read that to help craft your questions.
During the interview, you should be taking notes. You could also ask to record the interview using a smartphone app, but some folks might be put off by this. Bring a notebook and make sure it contain the questions you want answered.
Be Prepared to Answer Questions
Although this isn’t a job interview, you are still establishing your own career network. Your interview subject might turn the tables on you and ask about your interest in the career. Be ready to explain yourself. This could become a valuable relationship that can pay off down the line and you want to put your best foot forward.
No matter who the person is or what they do, everyone likes to talk about their career and life choices. It might just come down to a matter of catching them at the right time. One day, in the not-too-distant future, you might be the one called on for an informational review request. Pay it forward – you could help someone else find a career they love, too!