Informational interviews provide an opportunity to learn about the day-to-day reality of your dream career from people who are already engaged in it. Conducting informational interviews allows you to ‘test-drive’ your dream career before investing in additional training, starting a business or applying for jobs. This will save you a lot of time and energy!
In this article, I assume that you have done your inner exploration and that you have identified up to three dream career themes you want to explore. I liken this step of the career clarity journey to the moment when the butterfly emerges from the cocoon. The butterfly instinctively knows which flowers to frequent – and equipped with your dream career themes, so do you!
Conducting informational interviews too soon on your career clarity journey can actually lead to more confusion. If you still feel pulled in many directions, you probably haven’t found enough clarity within. It’s too soon to reap the clarity you desire from informational interviews. If that’s were you are at, request your free career clarity consultation to explore how I may assist you in refining your focus.
Opportunities for Informational Interviews
Most people feel some discomfort cold calling and talking to strangers. Here’s how several of my clients found informational interview partners in ways that felt comfortable for them:
- Draw on Your Existing Network for Warm Leads: One of my clients reached out to her larger circle of friends and asked if they knew someone connected to the field of magazine editing (her favourite career theme). Sure enough within a week, she received three personal introductions to magazine editors in three different countries.
- Approach School Administrators as Key Connectors: Another of my clients approached established training institutions in the systems analyst field (her favourite career theme). Once she had a chance to connect with administrators in these institutions, she asked them to connect her with alumni, so that she could learn from them about their experience with the training and how it serves them now, as they are working in the field.
- Connect with Professional Associations as Valuable Source of Contacts: Yet another client, approached professional associations of technical writers (his favourite career theme) and asked to attend their networking functions as a guest. He was then able to mingle and meet with people working in the field and several were happy to arrange informational interviews with him.
Prepare Well for Informational Interviews
Clearly define your goals for each informational interview. Research your interview partner by conducting a google search, checking their LinkedIn profile and reading about them and their organization online. Conducting in-depth online research before asking for informational interviews will help you focus informational interviews on gathering meaningful information that is not available on the Internet.
The focus with informational interviews is on listening and learning. However, your interview partner will want to know a little bit about you and why you are interested in this career. Prepare a script so that you are ready to share concisely who you are and why you are interested in this career/industry.
Think about questions your contacts may ask, and prepare brief answers in writing. This will help you be succinct during the informational interview, so that you can keep the focus on gathering valuable information. Assure your interview partner that you are not asking for a job, but wanting to learn more about the profession and/or industry.
Keep Informational Interviews Short
Ask for a specific time on the phone or in person, such as 10 or 20 minutes. Take responsibility for keeping the conversation on time. Let your interview partner know when the time is up, thank them for their generosity and bring the conversation to a close. Some interview partners will volunteer to answer more questions and spend more time. If so, ask a few more questions, but don’t overstay your welcome.
Remember that while you are asking for a favour from the people you are interviewing, you are also doing them a favour. You give them the opportunity to reconnect with the passion for their career, remember what they most enjoy about their job and how they initially got into it.
Julia James is a certified life coach and award-winning author of the book, The Mini-Retreat Solution. With over ten years experience coaching people through positive career transformations, Julia is passionate about helping people connect with their true calling.