“Informational Interview” is a rather fancy phrase for a very straightforward, logical, and extremely helpful way to help you choose (or confirm) your job objective — by getting “hands-on” information about your chosen field. It’s an interview that YOU conduct by asking folks about their careers, just for the sake of gathering information.
A 12-Step Guide for Informational Interviewing
When you’re trying to figure out a career field or you’re clarifying your job objective, an informational interview can be very helpful. Here’s what you do.
1. Think back on your most enjoyable days of work (or play), and jot down some ideas about what you think you’re best at and enjoy doing — not actual job titles, but SKILLS and ABILITIES and TALENTS and INTERESTS — all the things you bring into your various jobs and hobbies.
2. Ask around among all your friends, relatives, friends of relatives, neighbors, people you used to work with, ANYBODY, and get from them the names of people who are already at work using these same SKILLS and abilities that YOU most enjoy using — somebody you could interview for information (NOT for a job, just for information about that line of work).
3. Ask each friend, relative, etc., for permission to mention THEIR name when you call the person they recommend.
4. Call each of the people they recommend and:
- Mention the friend or relative’s name.
- Ask for 15 or 20 minutes of their time to visit with them and learn a bit more about THEIR line of work.
- Explain that you think you might be interested in that field because it uses skills and abilities you have, BUT you’re not sure yet; you’re still checking things out and deciding your direction.
- Tell them you’re not looking for a job, just getting more info to help you get clear.
5. Make an appointment to visit them at their workplace for about 20 minutes.
6. Make up a good list of questions that you’d like to ask — for example:
- How did you get into this kind of job?
- What are the requirements for this work?
- What are the best and the worst aspects of this work?
- What kind of pay range can be expected in this line of work?
- What chances are there for moving ahead in this field?
- Anything else that would help you decide whether this is a good career direction for you.
7. Show up right on time for the meeting, ask all your questions, and take some brief notes so you won’t forget.
8. Wrap up the meeting on time, thank the person, and as you leave, ask them for the names of two OTHER people who use those same skills that you want to use in your next job.
9. When you get home, sit down and write that person a short thank-you note and get it in the mail that same evening.
10. Next day, call the two people mentioned, make appointments with THEM, and follow the same plan as above.
11. Continue this process until you find yourself EXCITED and ENTHUSIASTIC about a particular line of work and know that this is the direction you want. THEN you’ll have a Job Objective you can happily pursue with all your energy.
12. Always keep in mind that THIS PROCESS WORKS, and admittedly it SEEMS a bit scary, but the fact is that people ARE willing to share their information when you show respect for their time, interest in their line of work, and appreciation for their help.