A job interview. (Photo courtesy of parade.condenast.com)

By Ellen Bourhis Nolan

So you’ve come up with your dream job, but you’re not sure how to get there, or perhaps want more information to decide if a career is a good fit for you. Consider conducting an informational interview.

If you’ve never heard of an informational interview, it is an opportunity to speak to someone in your chosen field or a field you are considering and ask questions such as: How did you get your first job? What do you like/dislike about your field?  What skills are necessary to be successful in this field?

You’d be surprised what you learn from these types of interviews. I recently gave this as an assignment to a class and nearly every student wrote that they had learned things they didn’t know about their career. Some commented that it helped reaffirm their career choice. Others obtained valuable information on developing skills they had not considered.

If you decide an informational interview might be helpful, where do you go to find someone to interview? The answer is often closer than you think. It might be a family member or a friend of the family. You might ask a faculty member or perhaps they know someone to interview. Or you might learn about someone via another source that piques your interest.

In any case, the first step is to contact them, either by phone or email and ask if they have 15 minutes to spare to answer some questions. Most individuals are happy to assist someone who is just beginning their career and they usually don’t mind talking about themselves.

The second step is to determine how you will communicate. Depending on where they are and their availability, it might be a meeting in person, a phone call or through email. The benefit of the first two methods is that it allows you to ask additional questions as they arise.

Once your method of communication is established, prepare a list of questions you would like to ask. If you need help with this, contact the Career Center and we can help you. One word of caution: this is not about asking for a job. This should be purely informational. If the relationship evolves in such a way as to lead to the opportunity for an interview, that’s an added bonus.

Another benefit often derived from these interactions is that these individuals may become a mentor as you begin and progress in your career. So after the interview, be sure to follow up with a thank you for their valuable time and information so be sure to obtain their contact information. Hand written notes are especially appreciated. In conclusion, the informational interview is easy and can benefit you in several ways. Try one. You will be glad you did it!

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions: ellen.bourhis.nolan@msmc.edu  or 845-569-3116.