BY: SAM MURPHY
Throughout my past two years of involvement in PRSSA, I’ve been prepped by a community of professionals and mentors to sharpen my knowledge on the public relations industry. While learning from these experts, I have been able to polish up on resume building, networking, job searching, and everything in between. For me personally, the skill that I have found to be most useful has tied all of these topics together; informational interviews. The purpose of an informational interview is to seek career advice from an established professional, specifically someone who holds a position you aspire to step into one day. By putting these lessons into practice, I was not only able to earn the summer internship of my dreams, but also re-assess the importance of facilitating connections. The key to nailing an informational interview can be explained in one word: Preparation.
Picture this: You’ve connected with a professional on LinkedIn that’s employed at a company you admire, or you’ve met someone at a networking event with holds interests similar to yours. You’ve reached out to them as an enthusiastic college student who would love to learn more about their position and career path. (In my experience, the employee I reached out to lived close enough to me to arrange a meetup for coffee, but keep in mind that video calls are just as effective!) The date is set… Now what?
First, do your research. Study that person’s LinkedIn, their past positions, and what they’ve accomplished. This alone can help you form questions such as “How did your previous experience at XX prepare you for the position you hold now?” or “I saw that you started off working in X industry, but then switched to Y. What changed your interests? What were the major differences between these two jobs?” Coming up with a list of questions you wish you ask prior to the interview can help alleviate any nerves you have, and ensure the conversation doesn’t come to an awkward pause as you organize your thoughts.
Another way you can help this interaction run as smoothly as possible is by brushing up on your PR vocabulary. Most people who have been working in the industry for at least a few years will forget that we, as college students, are still navigating the many terms that are bounced around the workplace. And how can you benefit from an informational interview if half of the conversation goes right over your head? If phrases like press clippings or lead time seem like foreign concepts, consider searching a few PR Glossaries so that you can be fully receptive- but also don’t be afraid to ask for elaboration on something if needed!
Lastly, don’t forget that a conversation involves two people. Despite the word interview, this isn’t meant to be a structured process, but one that flows naturally. If an opportunity arises for the conversation to go in a different direction, go with it! The most important thing is that you walk away with more knowledge of your goals and/or job expectations. You shouldn’t enter into this thinking an internship will be handed over to you by the time it’s over. Be sure to follow-up to thank the person for their time and advice. If potential internships weren’t brought up during your interview, reiterate your eagerness and initiative in follow-up by stating that you would love to be considered for any available opportunities in the future.