Informational interviews are an invaluable asset early on in your career. These purely educational conversations with professionals offer inquisitive students the chance to see “behind the scenes” of various work environments. While the purpose of these interviews is not necessarily to try to land a job offer, the personal benefits will certainly help you get closer to achieving your goals.
Interviews, along with much of the rest of the workplace, have shifted online in recent years. But what’s changed? How can students make the most of virtual informational interviews? We did some research to try to bring some clarity to these questions, so here’s what you need to know.
What is an informational interview?
As a student, there are aspects of working in a career that can best be learned from a firsthand perspective—ie, someone working in the job. While students explore their future career paths and plan their major, hands-on learning is a key element to success. Get ready to dust off your networking skills and meet real-life superheroes!
While you might be apprehensive about reaching out to strangers to talk to, consider this: most professionals were in your shoes once, and don’t mind taking a few minutes to meet with you. Besides, you’ll never know until you ask, and the benefits of these information-based interviews are multiple.
Rise of Virtual Conferencing Technologies
It’s no surprise that tech giants like Zoom, Google Meet, and Skype were forced to quickly innovate to meet the demand of remote-work employees during the pandemic. As a result, students in K-12 grades, college students, and teachers themselves had to have an emergency crash course in virtual learning. Of course, keep in mind that it’s still important to take these meetings seriously and honor your scheduled commitments. And while these kinds of tools are by no means perfect, the last few years have worked out many kinks to help support successful learning and meeting experiences for students and teachers alike.
Today, many workers value the freedom that remote work allows. The expanded global access changed what the job market will look like in the next few years. If you are already familiar with how to operate these technologies, that’s great. If not, then now is the best time to start! After all, digital meetings are not likely to disappear anytime soon. Experts predict that these skills will only become more integrated into the future of work and education.
Worrisome Gap in Networking Skills and Opportunities
Given the shift in work modality, students across the nation experienced a gap in social exposure usually accessed through school. Nonetheless, your teen years are a critical time to develop networking skills. From fostering meaningful mentorship relationships to reaching out to new connections, interpersonal soft skills are necessary later in life.
This gave rise to virtual interviewing and networking events. Many college campuses now offer virtual job fairs and the like. Instead of putting your career development on pause, you can continue to hone these skills by establishing a few great informational interviews virtually!
Steps to a Successful Informational Interview
- Research the career field and industry you are interested in. Gain foundational knowledge of how things work; this should answer your biggest questions about salary ranges, job responsibilities, and career pathway options. As you identify what additional things you would like to learn from a one-on-one conversation, start creating a set of interview questions to focus on.
- Identify interviewees to whom you would like to speak. They can be family, friends, school connections, alumni from your school(s), or even someone you found on LinkedIn. Research may be required, but it’s worth it to find a valuable connection.
- Contact your interview subjects. If you don’t know them personally, sending a professional, courteous phone call or email is best. Introduce yourself and what you are asking them for (20 to 30 minutes of their time). Emphasize that it is only for informational purposes, and you are not seeking a job.
- Schedule the meeting. If you reach someone in person or via phone, be prepared to conduct the interview right then, in case he or she says it’s a good time! If you do schedule it for the future, confirm the date and time. Before your meeting, ensure that your technology is working and/or you arrive a few minutes before the scheduled hour.
- Preparation. Feel free to bring notetaking materials and a final list of your questions. This shows your interviewer that you care about remembering your discussion.
- Follow-up with a thank you note. You can request their business card or contact information at the end of the interview if you enjoyed the conversation. In addition to a thoughtful thank you, consider keeping the person updated as you continue your journey and apply their advice.
What NOT to Ask
As we mentioned earlier, the main attraction of informational interviews is the insider knowledge you gain only from someone who works that job. So the two main questions you’ll want to avoid asking are:
- Anything that can be found on the internet during your research.
- Whether you can have a job interview (if you tell your contact that you are scheduling an informational call and then change, they may feel tricked).
Beyond that, feel free to allow the discussion to flow like a conversation would. You don’t have to get through every single question you planned; a memorable, genuine meeting is far more impactful.
For More Tips and Advice
A college or career counselor might be the guiding hand you need to find direction along your path. These experts are trained in discovering students’ aptitudes and areas of improvement. Whether you want to flesh out your student resume or build a stellar college application profile, these services pay dividends in the present and the future. If you’d like to schedule an exploratory call to learn more about Empowerly, all you need to do is click below!