Informational interviews are a great way for students to learn more about potential majors and careers. These interviews also serve as a good way to broaden networks (for internship or job seekers), to find mentors, and provide opportunities to practice verbal and written communication skills. While students may find the idea of contacting, meeting, and interviewing someone they do not know daunting, it is good to remember that most professionals are happy to make a thirty minute appointment to share insights about their chosen field and career paths. Even seasoned professionals have mentors from whom they can seek advice. The following are steps to take to conduct an informational interview:
- Research companies of interest. Note the name and contact information of the person(s) to contact for an informational interview; this determination may require a phone call or personal visit at the business. Check your own network of friends, families, and neighbors to find out if anyone has contacts at the company; this is one of the best ways to get an appointment.
- List questions in advance of the meeting; for example: How did you decide on this field? What was your education and work history background? What are the desired skills and attributes to be successful in this position? What do you like best and least about your job? What is the future outlook for this field? Is outsourcing or technology impacting the employment prospects? What is the average salary in this field, and where are most of the jobs found?
- Send an email requesting an appointment. Start by identifying yourself as a high school or college student. Make it clear that you want to learn more about the field, but that you are not seeking a job. Indicate when you are available. Note: these interviews can be conducted via computer cameras for remote locations. Remember to send a flawless message with proper salutations.
- Treat the interview the same way you would if you were seeking a job: dress professionally, come prepared with the questions and note paper, shake hands and thank the person for his or her time. Be mindful of how much time the interviewee has to give you; if you did not get all your questions answered, ask the professional if you can continue the dialog later by email or in person. Also ask if you can stay in touch in case you have future questions.
- Send a thank you note promptly.
Besides gaining firsthand information about possible careers of interest, students benefit by honing their networking and communication skills. These skills will serve the student well throughout their lives.
Ferah Aziz is a college coach with launchphase2. Visit www. launchphase2.com or call 720-340-8111 to learn more about coaching for college bound students, and success coaching for college students. P. Carol Jones is the author of “Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able.” Visit www.towardcollegesuccess.com to read excerpts and to follow her blog.