How to Schedule an Informational Interview
If you are thinking about a career change, it is important to learn all you can about your potential new field and the specific positions that you are interested in. One of the best ways to learn more about a profession is to sit down and talk with someone who has spent years working in that industry. These meetings are referred to as "informational interviews," and they are increasingly used by job seekers and career changers to make more informed career moves.
Another reason for setting up informational interviews is that by doing so you expand your network and make new connections in the new field. These new connections may be able to connect you to hiring managers, recruiters or other people in higher positions who have the ability to give you a job. Having an advocate who knows you and can recommend you, will make it much easier (and faster) to transition into the new field.
Here is how to set up an informational interview:
Finding a Professional
The first step of courses is finding an experienced professional in your field of interest who will be willing to give you some time and answer your questions. The closer your connection, the more likely that they will be willing to meet with you, so start by thinking of friends, family members or acquaintances who work in that field. Do not forget to ask them about any of their friends, family or connections that might be working in your chosen industry.
If you can’t find anyone, consider whether you know anyone working in a related careers. Related fields could include companies, agencies or organizations that provide products or services to that filed or are customers and are recipients of their products or services. These may include suppliers, consultants, or maintainers to that industry. Their network might include professionals who are very familiar with that industry and would be happy to meet with you.
Sometimes your personal network won't generate any potential leads. In that case, you can reach out to your school's alumni network, or even search company websites for professionals who graduated from your school. Having an alma mater in common will help encourage these professionals to speak with you.
Next, you can search for 2nd and 3rd degree connections on LinkedIn or other career-oriented groups and forums to see who can connect you to the right individual. The more people you talk to, the higher your chances of finding the right connections.
As a last resort, you can cold contact professionals that you find through search engines or social networking sites. In that case, explain how you found them, why you are reaching out and that you truly appreciate their advice. You may be surprised of how many total strangers will happy to help someone who is interested in their profession.
Requesting an interview
After you've identified someone to request an informational interview with, the next step is to contact them. This can be done by messaging (through social media) or email at first to avoid putting anyone on the spot.
In your email or message, clearly introduce yourself, your interests, and why you're reaching out. If you've never met the person, explain who provided their contact information, how you are connected to them or where you found their contact information. Ask whether they could spare fifteen to thirty minutes for an interview and provide information about your availability. Keep your email brief and to the point, ending with a short note about how much their advice can help you.
It is also acceptable etiquette to call someone to request an interview. If you call, be ready to provide the same information that you would have over an email.
In addition, when calling to request an interview, be prepared for the interview to take place immediately. Some professionals would rather speak with you right away over the phone than schedule another meeting in the future. Make sure that you've researched their company and profession before calling, and that you have a list of questions ready to go. Just like in an email, it's important to end your call with how much you appreciate their advice.
If the first person you reach out to is unavailable or unwilling to help you, simply try another. Do not give up. Some professionals are too busy for an informational interview, so you should expect to occasionally be turned down. Some professionals are simply more generous than others with their time and advice.
Set a goal of speaking to at least three individuals. This may mean that you have to contact ten or fifteen people. Fortunately, many professionals who have been in your shoes will understand and will be eager to share their knowledge. So, stay at it and keep contacting them. it won't take long before you find someone who is excited to tell you about their experience and give their advice.
By Rafael Tomik, Career Transition Coach, BeGreat.com
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