For many students, choosing the perfect career path is a daunting and nerve wracking experience. Communication majors have a plethora of job opportunities, but some do not know their perfect fit or how to pursue them. A little, overlooked gem called the informational interview, however, is a way to open students’ eyes and put them on the right path to success.
The information interview is not an interview conducted in the hopes of landing a job with the professional the student meets with. Through the informational interview, students and prospective professionals can meet with professionals in the industry to gain insight on career advice, the industry they work in, and the corporate culture of their own company. Job seekers can also be unemployed, or employed and considering new options.
This is the perfect opportunity to ask any questions the student may have about jump starting their own careers. Students or current professionals can find employment leads, and expand their professional network. The employed professional from whom the potential candidate seeks advice and information also learns about a new potential colleague or hire and builds their own network through the conversation.
In order to make the connection with a prospective employer, students can connect with alumni or professionals through LinkedIn or can ask colleagues to make introductions. Jennifer Winter of The Muse, noted that an informational interview “is a request most people would feel flattered to accommodate.” So anyone interested in obtaining one should not look at it as a cold call, but as a “reporter calling an expert to research an article. Send the person a friendly, concise email that gets right to the point.” Winter suggests opening an email or phone call with a message such as, “I’m thinking about a career change and would love to pick your brain about your experience.”
According to a blog post written by Marci Alboher for the New York Times, if a person is willing and able to meet for an informational interview there are several things to keep in mind: 1. Informational interviews are simply a tool for building relationships and expand one’s professional network, not as a way to get a job – the point is to learn. 2. Wait for the right time for both you and the employer you are looking to speak with. This means leaving the ball in the employer’s court to choose a time that works for them. It also means properly researching the company the person works for prior to calling or meeting and have questions ready beforehand. 3. Never overstay your welcome. It’s always better to signal the meeting is ending and let the other person say he or she is open to continuing the discussion.
Alboher also provided potential questions one can ask when partaking in an informational interview:
1. What do you like most about what you do, and what would you change if you could?
2. What are the types of jobs that exist where you work and in the industry in general?
3. What are some of the biggest challenges facing your company and your industry today?
4. How do you see your industry changing in the next 10 years?
5. How has writing a book (starting a blog, running a company, etc.) differed from your expectations? What have been the greatest moments and biggest challenges?
By: Nicole Sullivan
Nicole Sullivan is a Mass Communication Major with Advertising and Journalism minors. She is the Vice President of External Affairs for the Public Relations Student Society of America as well as a Senior Reporter for the University of Delaware’s independent student-run newspaper, The Review.