Category : PROspective
By: Alex Whicker
While some of us started at Rollins with a clear idea of the exact field and job we want to work in, a lot of us came in with no clue what we want to do with our lives. One of the great things about being in graduate school, however, is having the opportunity to explore different career patch and learn about new fields. Whether this be through a REAL job, research experience, our APEs, or just conversations with faculty and professors there are endless opportunities to dip our feet into something new. One great way to learn about a career or field you may be interested in is through informational interviews.
Informational interviews are a great opportunity to ask someone what their job looks like and how they got there without as much pressure as a formal networking event or job interview. Most people are more than happy to attend an informational interview, if their schedule allows, so they can share about the field they’re passionate about and mentor people who are in positions they once were in. Beyond that, however, informational interviews are also a great way to network with people you might not normally interact with, potentially opening the door for opportunities down the line. If you don’t quite know where to start when it comes to informational interviews here are some quick tips:
- Identify the topic or job you’re interested in learning more about. Having a general idea of the field you want to know more about is best, so you don’t waste anyone’s time, including your own.
- Reach out to someone who works in the field you want to explore and ask if they’re willing to do an informational interview. This can be someone you already have a relationship with, like a professor or supervisor, or you can find someone through platforms like LinkedIn or Mentor Rollins to connect with people.
- Do your research. Before you meet with them, look up information on their company or job, if available, so you can make your questions more targeted and not waste time on information that can easily be find online.
- Come up with a list of questions. The person you’re interviewing has no idea what you want to know about their field. As the person initiating the meeting, you should be prepared to direct the conversation. More likely than not you’ll only have time for a handful of questions, but it wouldn’t hurt to have some backup questions handy if you happen to run through your main list too quickly. If you’re not sure what types of questions to ask, check out the Informational Interview Guide by Rollins Career Development.
- Take notes. Write down the name of the interviewee as well as the date you interview them and add any key information you might want to remember later.
- Follow up. Send a thank you note or email after the interview as a gesture of appreciation for them taking the time to meet with you. You can also send them updates on your academic/career progress to keep the door open for future contact with the person.
On top of being an excellent way to explore new topics, informational interviews can also be a good opportunity to practice your interpersonal skills to keep them sharp for networking and interviews. If you’re struggling to identify what type of field you’re interested in, or even if you have your eye on a job with no current openings, an informational interview can help you build connections with people and learn more about a career you might not have experience in. Just remember to always keep things polite and professional and go in with an open mind!