Whether you’re a freshman or a senior in college, informational interviews are always a good technique to employ when it comes to your future career.
Just what are informational interviews? It kind of works like this: You do some research in your field of interest, pick someone whose job you might want to have someday, and interview that person about how they got to where they are. Generally, it’s informational for you, and fun for the person being interviewed (you’ll find that people like talking about themselves).
Here are some tips on how to effectively perform an informational interview:
1. Do your research/gather a list of contacts.
If your dream job is Jon Stewart’s hosting role on “The Daily Show,” ehhh. . . you might have some trouble getting ahold of him. That’s why it’s important to have a wide list of local contacts with which you can get in touch and possibly meet up. Any job or field you have an interest in, get the contact information down.
2. Write a friendly (personal) email and send it out.
Once you have compiled a list, work on a flexible email message. Start with a friendly salutation, explain your situation, how you discovered the person’s job, and what you’d like to gain from them (“I’d love to chat with you some time about how you got to where you are—a CEO of [insert company name here]”). Keep it short, courteous, and thank them for their time (even if you never hear back from them). Remember, it’s important to personalize each email, so don’t just send out a mass message to a bunch of possible contacts.
3. [If they respond] Ask them if you can call them/meet with them in person. You can email back and forth if you’d like, but you’ll get more out of it if you actually speak with them (plus, sometimes computer tone doesn’t translate well). Suggest a meeting place/calling time convenient for both of you. Coffee shops like Starbucks are ideal locations (you can even offer to buy their drink for generously donating their time).
4. Take notes during the interview. The person might be able to provide you with some good leads, and at the very least, promising feedback for the future.
5. Send them a follow-up email/card thanking them. Nothing resonates better than a thoughtful letter. A card in the mail especially carries a personal touch, as it’s in your handwriting and shows you took the time to mail it. You can also include your business card (if you have one) or contact information.
As opposed to job interviews, the cool thing about informational interviews is that you get to ask the questions. It’s a good way to calm your fears or worries about the future and also even find out if you’d be happy working in a particular field. Think of it as an actor performing research for the role of a lifetime.