The ability to identify career options that closely match your values, interests, and skills, is an important step in the job search process. Reading about various career fields will provide you with a general overview of the work, requirements, and general benefits of selected careers. However, making a career decision based on this information alone can be somewhat limiting. To expand your understanding of targeted career options, you are encouraged to interview people who work in fields that you are considering. This method of gathering career information is called informational interviewing.
Participating actively in informational interviewing will allow you to gain a wealth of information about organizations, their environments, and various career opportunities within these organizations. Conducting an informational interview involves interviewing people who are working in your field(s) of interest and allows you to gather up-to-date, firsthand information on the following:
What is done on a day-to-day basis on the job
How people feel about their work
Organizational settings and work environments
Informational interviews provide important contacts that can be helpful in the future. Informational interviewing offers you the opportunity to meet with potential employers in a stress-free, non-threatening situation. You will not be asking for a job, you will be seeking information.
To acquire interviews, research the names of alumni or the people who hold the highest positions in the departments or areas you have selected. If you don't know the names of these people you can obtain them through direct personal referrals, up-to-date directories or by telephoning the main number of organizations and requesting the information. Using the Career Connections database is an excellent way to find Rollins alumni contacts in your area of interst. Learn more about the alumni who have volunteered to help you with your career planning by logging in to your R-CareerLink account and choosing the Career Connections tab at the top of the page. Here you may browse through the database of volunteers and send e-mail messages to those with whom you wish to conduct an informational interview.
There are two ways to make contact with potential interviewees; telephone to set up an appointment or write a letter (see sample informational interview letter on the Samples page) and follow up with a phone call. Contacting a professional to ask for an informational interview can be a bit intimidating if you are not used to practicing this type of telephone etiquette. Although you are not calling an employer to ask for a job, some employers will perceive your call as job solicitation, so you must be polite, appreciative, and sincere whether you are speaking with the receptionist, an administrative assistant, or the person you are trying to interview. Take time to practice your telephone skills with a career counselor before you begin making calls. Try writing notes or a script of the request you want to make.
When making the contact, explain that you are working on a career-planning project and are trying to gather information that will enable you to make wise career choices and decisions. Tell the person you are seeking his or her advice.
When you have completed your informational interview, thank the employer for sharing his or her time and advice with you. Also, ask if you may contact him or her in the future should you have further questions. Always send a thank you letter!
Finally, keep careful records of your informational interviews. Record them immediately after your discussion, and include whom you talked with, name of the organization, date and time, and what was discussed.
Informational interviews are usually easier for first year students than for seniors. The earlier you start, the better. Once you have learned how to set up an informational interview, the process is yours for life. It is every bit as effective for a career change as it is for locating your first job.
What you know is important, but who knows you is equally important. There is much less risk in hiring someone you know. This is the most significant benefit of informational interviewing. People who have the authority to hire you are getting to know you.
How do you spend your time at work? Can you describe a "typical" day or week?
What do you like best about your work and/or your field? Least?
How did you learn how to do your work? On the job? At a previous job? Formal training? If you were starting out in your field now, would you train in the same way?
What makes someone successful in your work?
As you look back on your experiences, is there anything you wish you'd known? Anything you would do differently?
Do people in your field belong to professional associations or organizations? Is there a local chapter? Do you think it would make sense for me to attend a meeting?
How do you keep up on your field? What should I be reading?
Can you suggest two or three other people I might talk with? May I mention your name when I contact them?
Be sure to always follow your informational interview with a thank you letter or e-mail. Remember, your interviewee is doing you a favor by giving their time to help you with your career planning. They also may be helpful to your job search so be sure to show the proper etiquette and thank them. Sample thank you letters can be found on the Samples page.