The highlights from a workshop created as part of The Job Forum’s Workforce of the Future Program, which was supported in part by a grant from The Miranda Lux Foundation to help prepare young people under the age of 25 for the world of work.
Participants who are giving the advice:
Lisa Clark, the Chief People Officer at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, who focuses on Program Management and People Strategy.
Tina Choi, a consultant at Propeller, a management consulting company (with more than 8k employees) who focuses on projects from program management to operations and process improvements, especially in retail and technology spaces.
Penni Hudis, Chair, Board of Directors at Women’s Cancer Resource Center, which is a nonprofit providing cancer support services.
Kaishna Mckenzie, a doctor from the Dominican Republic who works as a medical assistant and social media manager at the Mosaddegh Eye Institute
Roger Brooks, Marketing Research Consultant &Strategist and Vice Chairman of The Job Forum, focused on market research in technology, digital and social media, and the wine industry.
Informational interviewing why and how?
Avoid job choice mistakes: I was talking just today with a good friend of mine, who is telling me that her daughter in law, who graduated college two years ago, took a job that didn’t end up being the job she thought she wanted or the job she thought she was getting into. Some proactive informational interviewing is what could have potentially prevented that lack of fit for ending up in a job that did not satisfy her.
Broaden your understanding: Informational interviews are absolutely critical. If you’re young, starting out in the world of work you’ve seen a job on a TV program, or you’ve talked to one person or two people who are in a job, it may sound interesting, but you hardly know anything about it.
You want to broaden your horizon. You want to talk with the number of people so that you can really get their varying perspectives and understand, via informational interviews, what matters in this job or type of work. Informational interviewing is how you research the roles and the companies. Informational interviewing is a form of data gathering. And you want to do it in a whole variety of settings in jobs that you know something about and jobs you know very little about and yet are potentially interested in.
Build your professional network: When you are lucky enough o be in informational you are starting to build a professional network. You want to be ready with some really good questions for the person with whom you are speaking. Prepare questions for them about how did you get into this job? How did you prepare? What education did you have to have? Was that education background you had really beneficial? You want to come across as being someone who is someone they want to get to know better, because in the end, this could help you build your professional network.
Develop a business relationship: It is really, really critical to think of informational interviewing as a relationship and so when someone gives you their time, you absolutely want to do a very sincere “thank you” and be specific. Let the person know why you’re thanking them. I learned a lot about the job. I learned about the career path. I learned some really important advice that I will take to heart. I think the information you shared will be very valuable especially what you said about XYZ and ABC. Your thank you note can be an email or in writing and mailing or both.
Expand your contacts to other people and companies or industries: In the course of the informational interview, you ask, “Do you have a colleague or two with whom I could talk?” “Can you introduce me to someone else who got into this job? into this field? “Do you know someone I can meet next who joined the field in a different way? Who has an additional or may have a slightly different take on it?” “Can you please introduce me next to someone who may have a different background? Maybe they’re of a different age. Maybe they’re older, maybe they’re younger? Maybe they come from a different ethnic community”.
You want to be building that network as part of doing your informational interviews.
Company and industry culture fit: I think informational interviews are really important for you to get to know about the company and the role too and really learn about the team dynamic in the company or field and you are doing informational interviewing for you to understand, is that something that you want to do, and are you going to be successful with people depending on you for this kind of work?
Ask and you will find friendly people: Ask for an informational interview by name and method. “I wonder if you will allow me a 15-20 minute informational phone interview with you? I will really value being able to ask you about (- be specific – name a job title or say their company or department or industry.)
Most people are really open for giving short phone informational interviews, and they really want you to be to find the right fit and especially if you’re in high school, college, or you are transitioning to a new industry or thinking of switching to a different kind of a career role. But you have to ask. Ask people you know. Ask on LinkedIn. Ask people you meet by attending The Job Forum. Ask people via Meet Up groups or industry meetings. Many people are going to welcome you with open arms because they want to help you find the jobs that are going to be the right ones for you.
Be prepared and don’t waste the opportunity: You want to treat an informational interview as an interview. You want to be prepared. You want to do your homework. You want to research the industry, so you’re prepared with good questions and questions that you know that you can’t necessarily answer online or looking though LinkedIn posts.
Examples of topics for valuable questions: What are those? What are those questions you have that help you to dig a little bit deeper?
- Do your homework on the individual that you’re talking to find out about him or her and then you can ask specifics related to his or her experience in the field. This experience is why you are talking with them.
- You also want to be prepared to talk succinctly about yourself and ask for feedback. Take some time to prepare and be able to share about your educational background and any work experience that you have, what your interests are, and ask the person if they think these make you a good fit for this type of a role or company or industry … and ask what you might do a better job of describing or what you might emphasize differently.
Then be prepared to ask between five to 10 questions you have about what related to what it is like to work in this job or field:
– What does a day in this kind of field look like?
– What are you mostly spending your time doing in this role?
– How are people evaluated in the job in this field?
– What is the career path upward for this compony?
– What is the name of the entry-level job title and what potentially comes next?
– Is this a field in which I will be able to financially support myself?
– Is this a field that is growing – or is it contracting or being replaced by other jobs?
– What are some examples of some challenges or the hardest parts of this job or this industry or this career?
– What are some examples of very satisfying aspects of this work?
Be sure to write the down your questions and practice speaking your questions: Review them ahead of time so it’s not the first time you’re asking them when you’re sitting, talking to the individual in your informational interview.
Stay in the data and information collection mode to find out how to succeed: In reality an informational interview is not a real interview for a job. It’s for you to network, and for you to get to know if a certain position or a certain company is going to be relatively ideal for you. I am working in a busy office as a medical assistant right now, This is my third job as a medical assistant. Each doctor has been completely different to assist and I’ve been doing ophthalmology all three times. So the same might be true for your job search. Each company that you’re at will be different. So the best way to understand what you will like and not like, or succeed in doing or not, is through informational interviewing to uncover information. You want to make a good career and job choice decision, so informational interviewing will increase your chances to do that.