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#008 Unlocking Insights: The Power of Informational Interviews in Career Exploration

When embarking on a career transition, gathering insights and knowledge about various industries, companies, and roles becomes crucial. One powerful tool for acquiring this information is the informational interview. In this article, we will delve into the concept of informational interviews, their significance, and how to make the most of these conversations.


Drawing from personal experience, we will explore the value of thorough preparation and the positive impact these interviews can have on your career exploration and decision-making process.


What is an Informational Interview?

An informational interview is a conversation with professionals who possess knowledge and experience in a particular career, industry, or company. Unlike traditional job interviews, the primary goal of an informational interview is not to secure employment but to gather insights, seek advice, and expand your understanding of a specific field. By speaking with someone in your career/job of interest, you can hear first-hand and "behind the scenes" experience. Learning from first hand encounters you can gain valuable information that goes way beyond what can be found in articles or online research.


The Power of Thorough Preparation

To make the most of an informational interview, preparation is key. It is important to keep in mind that the person(s) you are going to speak with are giving up some of their precious time to help you. So, make sure to make the most out of their and your time!


Start by researching the person, their job role, and the company they work for. This background knowledge will enable you to ask targeted and meaningful questions during the interview. Consider the specific information or perspective you hope to gain from the conversation (e.g. What does your average working day look like? Or Which part of your job do you enjoy the most/least?). Topics of interest are insights into a career path, industry trends, or company culture. Example questions could include, “From your perspective, what do you see as the most critical development of the market?” or “Do you think your company adapts well to change, for example what are the learnings and changes from the pandemic?


It is also essential to identify any materials or documents that may support the discussion. This might include researching recent company news or industry reports to demonstrate your genuine interest and commitment to learning. On the other hand, you may seek specific feedback on a piece of work or application document. By arriving well-prepared, you convey professionalism and respect for the interviewee's time, increasing the likelihood of a fruitful conversation.


The Value of Networking and Reaching Out

Actively seeking out informational interviews allows you to connect with professionals who can provide unique perspectives and insider knowledge. The more diverse your network, the wider your range of insights and possibilities.

If possible, reach out to individuals across various job roles and company hierarchies. Cast a wide net and be open to exploring different paths. While it may seem overwhelming to set up multiple interviews, remember that each conversation holds the potential to unlock new opportunities, ideas, and connections.

Ideas to find connections:

  • Use LinkedIn to search for job roles and connections (ask for introductions if necessary)

  • Use web search to identify company hierarchies and structures, and therefore the potential roles within

  • Ask your immediate network for referrals and ideas


Conclusion

Informational interviews are powerful tools for gaining valuable insights into potential careers, industries, and companies. Thorough preparation, including research on the interviewee and identifying key questions, sets the stage for a fruitful conversation. By actively networking and reaching out to professionals, you expand your knowledge base and open doors to exciting opportunities. Embrace the informational interview as a means of gathering knowledge, refining your career path, and making informed decisions as you navigate the transition from academia to industry.

 

Author: Dr Elisabeth Kugler, Director. Zeeks - Art for Geeks Ltd

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