Interviews give good information for best career choices
To make an informed career decision, you need facts. Yet, many of us rule in or rule out careers based on what we think we know about the work. Who doesn’t know someone who trained for a career only to find that it wasn’t anything like what they envisioned or who bounced from job to job looking for just the right one? Information interviews provide a comprehensive overview of what a job is really about, and they can help you make an informed decision.
An information interview is just that – a chance to gather information. It provides an opportunity to interview individuals doing the work that interests you in a variety of settings, across industries. You ask questions to learn firsthand about the position, entry-level education and experience requirements, duties and responsibilities, career paths, salary range, environments where this type of work can be found, and potential for growth. Information interviews are also a good way to build networks, learn about professional organizations, and put you in touch with others who do related work so you can explore other opportunities.
By meeting with someone who does a job in the environment where it’s performed, you can observe all aspects of the job – the duties, the way in which it’s performed, the culture, stressors, hierarchy. You can learn about work-life balance, values, responsibilities and expectations. After conducting several information interviews, you will have a much better feel for the work.
Information interviews are especially important when you are just starting out or thinking about a career change. Having good information will save you money and time.
You know the type of work you are interested in learning about. Now, you need to figure out where that work exists in the community so you can start lining up interviews. For example, if you are interested in nursing, you will want to arrange to interview nurses working in a variety of settings to get the best possible overview of the work, including the educational and licensing requirements.
Being a nurse in the emergency room is very different from working as a nurse in a dermatologist’s office or a community health clinic. You get the idea. You need to explore all of the possibilities to get a comprehensive view of what’s available, what it takes to enter the field and what you need to do to get started.
Develop a list of several businesses or organizations where the work of interest is performed. Once you have your list, you’ll need to identify who to contact. Send an email or letter, or call the person to request an information interview. It is important to start by stating your request for an appointment to conduct an information interview, emphasizing that you are not seeking employment, just information. Let the person know you will take up no more than 20-30 minutes of his or her time, scheduled at a time and place of convenience for him or her. You will get the most benefit from an in-person interview, so that should be your goal.
Learn about the industry and organization before your meeting to gain a basic understanding of the work and the settings. It will also help you in the development of questions.
Develop a list of 10-12 questions that will provide you with information relevant to making an informed decision. You may offer to provide the questions prior to your meeting if desired. Bring a copy of the questions with you, and be prepared to take notes as needed.
When you are conducting the information interview, behave as if you are at a formal job interview. Dress appropriately and arrive a few minutes early. Strive to behave professionally and be respectful of time.
After the interview, be sure to send a thank-you note to let the person know you appreciated the time and information shared. You can include a statement or two about what you learned. If you’d like, stay in touch with by sending an occasional article of interest, or send a holiday card with a short note letting them know how the information they shared made a difference.
Once you have completed your interviews, you will have a wealth of information about the work, the way in which it is performed, and the education and training needed for entry into the field. You will also know about career paths and the future of the field.
Information interviews are a good way to help you make an informed career decision. Better to walk away now rather than after you spend money and time pursuing a career that will leave you wondering why you chose it.