Want to know what a career is really like? Interview with someone who has first-hand experience. One of the best sources for gathering information about what's happening in an occupation or an industry is to talk to people working in the field. This process is called informational or research interviewing. An informational interview is an interview that you initiate - you ask the questions. The purpose is to obtain information about a career, not to get a job.
Some of the benefits of interviewing are:
- Explore careers and clarify your career goal
- Discover employment opportunities
- Expand your professional network
- Find ways to prepare for a career
- Access the most up-to-date career information
- Identify your professional strengths/weaknesses
Identify the occupation or industry you wish to learn about:
- Assess your own interests, abilities, values, and skills, and evaluate labor conditions and trends to identify the best fields to research.
- Prepare for the interview: Read all you can about the field prior to the interview. Decide what information you would like to obtain about the occupation/industry. Prepare a list of questions to have answered.
Start with lists of people you already know: friends, relatives, fellow students, present or former co-workers, supervisors, neighbors, etc. Professional organizations, organizational directories, and the Internet are also good resources. You may also call an employer and ask for the name of the person by job title.
Contact the person to set up an interview: by telephone, by a letter followed by a telephone call, or by having someone who knows the person make the appointment for you. Ask for a convenient time, at least 15-20 minutes, to conduct the interview.
Dress appropriately, arrive on time, be polite and professional. Refer to your list of prepared questions; stay on track, but allow for spontaneous discussion. Before leaving, ask your contact to suggest names of others who might be helpful to you and ask permission to use your contact's name when contacting these new contacts.