Conducting an Informational Interview
Finding a Professional
Networking is key is the career exploration and job search process. In order to find a professional working in your field of interest start with your parents, your friends, your friends parents, faculty and staff. Ask around to see if they have any acquaintances they can refer you to in that particular field. Utilize St. Lawrence alumni through LinkedIn. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS!!! Alumni are there to help you! There is also a St. Lawrence University LinkedIn Group, which you can join and to which you can post questions or messages. You can also find professionals by browsing the internet and obtaining contact information, but I would start with your associated networks first and then go from there.
Contacting a Professional
Most often, when you receive contact information, you are getting an e-mail address or phone number. In both cases you would tell the professional who you are, where you go to school and what your interests are in talking to them. Then, politely ask if they would have time to answer some questions for you. If they respond that they don’t, simply ask if there is a better time to contact them or if there is someone else in the field they could refer you to talk to instead. People within your networks with most likely be accommodating, but don’t take it personally if they are busy and can’t speak with you.
Questions to Ask
- Occupational Environment
- How would you describe the environment in which you work?
- Describe the typical day at work (routine/duties)
- How much flexibility are you allowed on your job in terms of dress, hours, vacation, etc.?
- Are you made aware of supervisory expectations? Are they realistic to you?
- Are you allowed any input in defining your goals?
- How independent can you be on this job?
- What portion of your job involves interacting with others such as co-workers and/or the public?
- How much overtime work is required on your job (nights/weekends)? What does it involve?
- Occupational Requirements and Experience
- What college courses were most helpful to you in your preparation for this career?
- What types of tools or equipment, if any, are necessary to perform this job?
- Is special certification, licensing, or an advanced degree necessary to perform your job?
- What personal qualities and skills do you see as important for success in this occupation?
- Is travel involved in your job? If so, how much and what type?
- How much job relocation is expected or needed to advance in this career?
- Benefits and Frustrations
- What are the major rewards of your job?
- What are the major frustrations you encounter on your job? How do you deal with them?
- What fringe benefits are offered on your job?
- What personal benefits are offered on your job?
- What is the salary range for entry-level positions in this occupation? What do salary trends look like for the future?
- Personal Views
- How did you, personally, get interested in this area of work?
- What was your undergraduate field of study/
- Did you have any practical experience or training, other than college, prior to your current job (part-time jobs, internships, volunteer experiences)?
- How did you get your current job?
- What are the opportunities for advancement in this field?
- What is the current demand for people in this occupation?
- Do you foresee any changes in this demand in the future?
- How is the field likely to be affected by technological changes?
- If you were in charge of hiring someone in your line of work, what criteria would you use to make your selection?
- Are there any professional groups that I, as an undergraduate, can join which would be beneficial to me?
- Do you know of any other people in this field who might be willing to talk with me about their experiences?
Evaluating your Findings
Questions to Ask Yourself:
- Is there a “good fit” between your self-information and the career requirements, or are their differences?
- What aspects of the career make it a “good fit”?
- If there are differences, how much of a problem will those differences be for you working in that career?
- Will these differences be specific enough to make you unhappy or dissatisfied in your profession, or are they minor sacrifices you are willing to make for an occupation you enjoy?
- What are your next steps? Who else would you like to talk to? What other information do you want to know?
**A FINAL NOTE OF CAUTION - Be smart. As you build your network with people you may not know yet, remember to approach any meeting you set up with the utmost professionalism. These cautionary notes provide some general rules designed to protect you:
1) DO NOT agree to meet anyone at any site other than a business location you can look-up;
2) NEVER agree to meet in a park, a bank, a bar, or some such place and ONLY meet during the daytime. If you've already built a sense of trust with the person, meeting for coffee at a familiar place to you may be just fine, but always exercise caution. Bring a friend along if you are concerned and tell someone where you are going for any interview.
Okay. There you have it. These cautionary notes are not meant to frighten you; just be smart as you go about meeting new people.