The best way to learn about a career field would be to gain hands-on experience, which’s not always possible. So the next best option is to have a conversation with a current professional in the career field, industry, or role you are interested in.
An informational interview (also referred to as a career conversation) is an informal conversation you can have with a professional in your area of interest. It is an effective research tool and is best done after preliminary online research. Although the name can be misleading, an informational interview is not a job interview, and the objective is not to find job openings.
You may feel awkward reaching out to people you do not know. However, most people enjoy taking a few moments out of their day to reflect on their professional life and give advice to someone interested in their field.
Benefits of Informational Interviewing
- Get firsthand, relevant information about the current realities of working within a particular field, industry, or position. This kind of information is not always available online.
- Find out about career paths you did not know existed.
- Get tips and insider knowledge about how to prepare for and land your first career position.
- Learn what it’s like to work at a specific organization.
- Initiate a professional relationship and expand your network of contacts in a specific career field; meet people who may forward job leads to you in the future.
Six Steps of Informational Interviewing
- Research career fields or employers
- Identify people to interview – LinkedIn is a great resource to find professionals in the field.
- Prepare for the interview by developing a develop a brief introduction and your goal for the meeting.
- Initiate contact – see the example email below
- Prepare open-ended and specific questions to ask. Ideally, the questions would be ones that you cannot find the answers to online.
- Take notes during the conversation
- Follow-up after with a thank you message and keep in touch quarterly to maintain the relationship.
Example Email for Requesting an Informational Interview:
“Good afternoon, My name is Taylor Holloway, and I’m studying welding at BRCC. My uncle suggested I reached out when he heard I wanted to explore a career in welding. Although I am not currently looking for a job, I have become very interested in the various welding processes and techniques and would like to learn more about the field. Would it be possible to schedule a 20-minute phone call with you at your convenience to ask a few questions and get your advice on how best to prepare to enter the field?”