Honestly, it feels a little bit weird to be talking about career advice and advancement in the middle of a pandemic. With so much uncertainty in the world today it can be difficult to find ways that you can work toward your future and work to advance your career. That's why today I'm excited to be talking about something that you can do right now, from home to advance your career: informational interviews. The best part about informational interviews is that they can be done virtually via phone or video call, and still serve as a great networking tool and a great way to learn about career paths and get your foot in the door. Today's job market is more competitive than ever, and it's time to get creative on how to break in and stand out. Especially for the class of 2020, I hope this guide helps you take a step closer to your dream job! This is part 1 of a 3 part series, posted each Monday morning. Read part 2 "Preparing for an Informational Interview" here, part 3 "Conducting an Informational Interview" here!
Starting your career as a young professional can come with some daunting roadblocks.
Dreaming of breaking into a competitive industry or company? Unsure what path you want your career to focus on? Struggling to figure out how to grow your network?
The solution to all of these problems is simple: Informational interviews.
An informational interview is sort of the reverse of your typical interview. In an informational interview (often just called an “informational”) a person looking to someday be considered for a specific job (you!) requests an informal meeting with someone who has that job. During this interview the roles are switched and you will become the interviewer, while the person who has the job that you admire is the interviewee.
Informational interviews have a ton of amazing benefits to them, and they’re even how I figured out my career path and got my current job in a competitive industry!
My experience with informational interviews
When I started my previous role, I didn’t know what I wanted my next step to be. I knew that this role, with a well-respected company in a competitive industry, was my “in” into the industry that I had dreamed about. I also knew that I wasn’t going to be in that role or company forever, and I needed to make as many connections as I could while being “on the inside.”
With that in mind, I set up roughly 20 informational interviews in the span of the year that I was in that role.
One of those informational interviews led to me landing my current job, at one of the most competitive companies in the industry. I had applied to that company countless times over the years, and had not made any progress prior to my informational interviews.
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Learn More about Informational Interviews
Interested in learning more about informationals? Check out this episode of The Quarter Life Crisis Club Podcast, where Sara and I share our experiences being on both sides of the informational interview process!
Why should you do an informational interview?
Informational interviews have a lot of benefits to them!
- See what it’s like to work at a company from an insider
- Gain insight into a specific industry or job path, from someone who lives it everyday
- Find out about a career path that you didn’t know existed
- Start a professional relationship/network
- Potentially receive a referral to a future job at that company or in that career field
- Learn about how they got where they currently are, and how you can apply those steps to your own career
- Get advice on what the next step in your career path should be
Related post: Preparing for an Informational Interview
How to set up an informational interview
Now that you want to do an informational, how do you get started?
First, identify people who you want to meet with.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Who do you have direct contact with from your current job, and want to learn more about what they do?
- Who do you already have contact with, who may be able to connect you with other people who’s careers you admire?
- Search on LinkedIn – what alumni from your school work in the industry/company you want to learn more about?
- Look for people in positions only 1 or 2 steps above where you currently are. They’re likely to have more time to meet with you than someone at the top of the company! These people will also give you the best honest insight into what you would be doing in your next step, which would likely be in their shoes.
- Who do you know who currently works at the company/in the industry you are striving for? Perhaps meet up with them for coffee and see if they can connect you with their coworkers.
- Who do you work with at the same company, even if you don’t have direct contact with them right now?
Next, reach out!
Unsure what to say? Now follow this template to set up an informational interview:
[Greeting!] [1-2 sentences introducing yourself: what do you currently do? What is your connection to this person?] [Flatter them in a sentence!]
[1-2 sentences on your reason for reaching out: my favorite is “as a new team member at [company/department] I’d love to learn more about what you do and how you got to where you are” or even simply “I’m interested in learning about what you do”]
[1 sentence straight to the point – you want to meet up with them!] [1 sentence saying to please let me know if you’re interested.]
Want more guidance?
Here’s an example of that template in action:
I hope you had a good weekend! I’m currently a sales assistant at XYZ company and had the opportunity to sit in on the marketing updates meeting that you led last week. I’ve always had an interest in pursuing marketing, and I really enjoyed learning about the upcoming XYZ campaigns that you spoke about in that meeting.
As a new member of the team here, and being new to the ABC industry as a whole, I’m exploring and learning about options for my future career path. I would love the opportunity to learn more about the work that you do with your marketing team and how you got to where you are.
I know things are crazy right now, but please let me know if you have some available time to meet up and grab coffee sometime soon.
Thank you so much!
See? Isn’t that easy?
Nervous about sending the email? Here’s the thing I’ve learned: People love to talk about themselves and their accomplishments. You asking to meet with them is a major compliment, and chances are high that they will accept.
That’s how to set up an informational interview.
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Learn More About Informational Interviews
Ready to master everything you need to know about informational interviews? Check out these other posts for more tips!