One of the most effective ways to research occupations is through informational interviews. These are face-to-face, telephone, or email conversations with an individual working in a field that you want to explore.
Benefits of conducting informational interviews:
- Explore the realities of careers that interest you
- Clarify your own career goals
- Gain confidence by developing professional communication skills
- Expand your network of professional contacts
- Learn additional ways to prepare for your future career
Why would a professional help me?
- They have the opportunity to advance their career field by encouraging others to enter it
- They may have been in your situation at one time
- People often like to talk about themselves and their careers and have a desire to help others
Finding professionals to interview
Choose one or two specific occupations or fields that interest you. This will provide some direction as you choose individuals to interview. How can you find these professionals? Start by talking to everyone you know: professors, relatives, friends, friend’s parents, neighbors, past and present co-workers or supervisors, etc. It’s possible that none of these people work in the field that interests you, but they might know someone who does.
Goshen College alumni are an excellent source of information and you are guaranteed to have at least one thing in common: GC. This connection creates a collegial atmosphere in which to interview and therefore may be a more informative opportunity. The GC ASK Network (Alumni Sharing Knowledge) is available through LinkedIn, a professional online networking site. To join, create a profile and join the GC Maple Leafs Alumni Group. Be sure to watch the brief, informative LinkedIn video for students before joining.
Additional resources include professional associations, organizational directories, and the Career Services office.
How to schedule an informational interview
The easiest, and often most effective, way to arrange an informational interview is through a mutual friend or acquaintance. This person can make the first request, and you follow up with a phone call. People are often more likely to talk with others with whom they have a connection. You may also send a letter requesting an interview or call the individual directly. Schedule 20-30 minutes for each interview. Whichever method you choose, it’s important to emphasize that you are looking for information, not for a job.
Face-to-face interviews ideally take place at the professional’s place of employment. This provides you the opportunity to see the physical work environment. Phone and email interviews are also options if the professional has a tight schedule.
Preparing for an informational interview
Learn everything you can about the career field and the organization the professional works for. Reading company literature and reviewing web sites will help you as you choose which questions to ask during the interview.
At the informational interview
Dress professionally and arrive 5-10 minutes early. Bring your list of questions, along with a notebook and pen. You are leading the interview, so you should initiate the conversation and keep track of the time. At the end of the interview, thank the professional and ask for suggestions of additional people with whom you could speak.
Remember, informational interviews should never be confused with job interviews. The purpose is solely for you to gather information and possibly additional contacts. It is considered very inappropriate to ask for a job during a career informational interview.