If you are considering a career change chances are you may not have all the information you need to make sound decision about your next career move. Informational interviews can help you discover:
- Which industries may be of interest to you.
- What positions you might qualify for based on your skills and experience.
- What it would be like to work for ‘XYZ’ company.
An informational interview is not a job interview. It is a meeting you conduct to learn about the real-life experience of someone working in a field or company that interests you. It also provides a great opportunity to expand your network and jump start your job search.
There are a few rules of the road you need to be familiar with before you set out to arrange this type of meeting.
1. Do your research. Use LinkedIn to research industries, companies and organizations to help you narrow your list. Many companies have LinkedIn pages where you can cross – reference the profiles of employees working there. And, don’t ignore company websites. Company websites offer a ton of information including: Products and services, markets served, as well as careers offered.
2. Make contact. Use your network and LinkedIn to get introduced to individuals in the companies/organizations you are interested in. Initiate your contact via email or phone and state the reason for your meeting request. For instance, you could say, “I am a recent grad with a BSME looking to start my career in the smart car tech field. I noticed on LinkedIn you head up Tesla’s Product Excellence Division. A mutual colleague, John Smith suggested I contact you to learn more about the industry.” Be clear that you are not asking for a job. This is critical, as you do not want to jeopardize your relationship. If you impress this person during your meeting, he/she could be instrumental in your job search.
3. Prepare. Have your questions prepared in advance so your meeting runs smoothly. Think about asking questions left unanswered during your research.
- Where do you see the industry going in the next 5 years?
- How did you get into this line of work?
- What is a typical career path for someone like me with a degree in…?
4. Stick to a time line. Your contact is a busy person. Ideally you want your meeting to be short, 30 minutes max. Having an agenda of questions prepared ahead of time will help you stay on track.
5. Ask for referrals. It is perfectly acceptable and encouraged to ask your contact if there are others they might suggest you speak with. This is a great way to expand your network and learn more.
6. Follow up. Always send a thank you note. Thank them for taking the time out of their busy schedule to share insights, opinions and suggestions. A hand written note adds a nice personal touch.
Informational interviews are an important part of the job search process. You can read a lot about careers and jobs but nothing compares to a face – to – face meeting with people who have the power to help you advance in your career. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.