Now that you have been at your internship for about a month, you should know where everyone sits, you understand the office culture, you have your morning routine down to a science and hopefully you are working on some interesting projects that have you excited about your internship. With the 4-6 weeks you have left, you need to get moving on conducting your informational interviews. If you didn’t land an internship this summer, or you just graduated, you still need to spend the next few weeks doing informational interviews.
An informational interview is a one-on-one interview you conduct with a professional to learn about a career or profession that you are interested in. It is the perfect opportunity to learn about what it takes to succeed in an industry, what the day-to-day life is like in that career, investigate a company culture and network. It can also provide a chance for you to practice your interviewing skills without the stress of a formal interview.
What better time to access working professionals across a variety of fields than while at your internship? It really doesn’t matter if you work at a company with 10 employees or 10,000, there will be someone there who can share their experiences with you. If you are not at an internship, try starting with your summer job and doing an interview with your manager or the business owner. Even though you are off for the summer, your career services and alumni offices are still open at your school. Reach out to your alumni or career services office and explain your desire to do informational interviews, and they can potentially hook you up with a few leads. Make sure when you call that you have an idea of what type of person you’d like to speak with (ex: business owner, public relations professional etc.).
When people agree to spend time with you for an informational interview, treat it as you would a job interview. Show up on time, dress professionally and do your research beforehand to make the most of their time and yours. Research the person on LinkedIn to learn about their career progression and see if there are more specific questions you maybe have about their chosen path. Research the industry, the current trends and the company or their department.
Through your research you should be able to compile a list of 15-20 questions. You want enough questions to fill the time, but also understand that you might not get through all of them. Usually your informational interview will last about 30 minutes. Your questions can range from questions about work environment, to their personal career path, the company, the industry to the day-to-day duties of their role. You can research more questions online, but here are some questions to jumpstart your process.
10 Questions for Your Interview
- How did you get from your first job to where you are now?
- What is the best advice you can offer me to succeed in this industry?
- What is your typical workday like? On average, how many hours do you put in?
- What are the most rewarding and difficult parts of your job?
- What are some reasons you would tell someone to not pursue a career in your field?
- How do I get started in this field? What are the characteristics of someone who will succeed in this profession?
- Can you recommend courses or activities I should engage in before I graduate that will make me a stronger candidate for entry into this field?
- What are the qualities or characteristics I should look for in a company to work for?
- What are some industry publications that you can recommend that I read or professional organizations should I join?
- Do you know anyone else that you think I should talk to about careers in this field? May I say that you referred me?
It is very important to follow-up within a day or two with a thank-you note. I recommend taking the time to write a handwritten note. While sending a thank-you email is simple and quick, your handwritten note just shows that you took a little more care in your response. Down the line, send an email to let them know the results after implementing their advice into your plans. If could be as simple as telling them that you just read a book they recommended and that it was great. You can also let them know if you were able to connect with the person they recommended to you (question 10). The contacts that you make during informational interviews can be great resources in the future.
For the most part, people enjoy sharing their knowledge and insights with interns and recent graduates. Use that to your advantage and get to work. If you are thinking about a career in higher education or career coaching send me an email and let me be your first interview.