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Introduction to Informational Interviews - What Are They?

By: Alan J. McMillan

An informational interview is a meeting with a professional to learn about opportunity and viability relative to your future career. A productive place to explore would be:

  • At a company you may be interested in
  • With a person who works within an industry where you might have interest
  • With someone working in a role, or who has worked in a that you can see yourself starting in

Unlike a job interview where you are in contention for an open position, informational interviews give you a chance to explore and discover what you really want to do, where you might fit, and what you would love to do. They allow you to:

  • Learn enough to see if a company/industry/job really interests you
  • It allows you to get good at the interview process itself
  • Develop insight to places that are hiring and ones where you might fit

This is the first in a series on informational interviews. In part, I am going to leverage the work of Ben Carpenter, a Wall Street CEO and author of a great book for college students emerging into the workplace, The Bigs. Carpenter is passionate about passing life lessons on to you while giving you action steps to gain an advantage.

The next couple of posts will link to videos from Carpenter and make excellent points from turning this ‘concept’ into pragmatic advantage. There are a lot of reasons to read The Bigs, but the part on informational interviews in and by itself is reason enough.

In his book, Carpenter even outlines emails that you can send to contacts in order to secure these valuable lessons.

Sometimes students making the transition from campus to employment don’t really know what they want to do. The earlier they can figure that out, the more advantage they gain and then they can tailor their academic experience toward their eventual outcome. So how do you figure out what you want to do?

Once an idea begins to form many questions emerge:

  • How would you get hired to do that?
  • What would be required of you?
  • What would an entry-level assignment in that field look like?
  • Where could you grow and advance from that starting position?

Informational interviews will get you these answers and a lot more.

If done right, they:

  • Expand your network
  • Reveal positions that are open where you might want to formally interview
  • Enhance your job search skills

Finally, Carpenter did not get to where he is by a lack of drive. He is very specific as to the number of informational interviews one must engage in to perform a great search. After all, in life and in career, activity breeds results. So freshmen take notice, you have to engage in your discovery and quest for employment from the moment you step on campus.

Key to your execution of a strong informational interviewing strategy is the power of your network. You will leverage your network and the network of others that you know. As for the latter, bringing your ‘A-Game’ to daily interactions with others will inspire them to leverage their network on your behalf. Finally, knowing how to use LinkedIn University Pages, can help with the virtual end of this strategic advantage.

The clock is ticking. Good luck!

If you're interested in learning more about informational interviews, you can take our free masterclass on how to find, prepare for and conduct informational interviews.

For a deeper dive into topics like this, check out LearnEarnRetire's course offering here.

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