Wonder what it’s really like to work in your dream corporate job? What is it like on the staff of your favorite nonprofit? Informational interviews are a great way for students to explore career positions.
Interviewing doesn’t have to wait until you have applied for a position: Informational interviews provide a chance for entrants into the labor market to see what a day in the life of a professional is like. An informational interview consists of either a phone call or a casual meeting either in an office or over a coffee. From corporate executives to small business owners, many business people are eager to share their work with the next generation of career seekers.
Landing an Informational Interview
Reaching out to a professional for an informational interview may be a daunting prospect, but there are several tips that can make the process easier.
Cal State Fullerton has an alumni network on LinkedIn, the world’s leading career-focused social network. Many alumni would be honored to discuss their career path and current activities with students and recent graduates. LinkedIn’s in-mail feature is a great tool to get in touch.
Mihaylo College has a vast business network throughout Southern California and beyond. The college’s centers and institutes have membership lists that provide a great starting point to finding a contact.
Guest speakers at university courses or other on-campus events are also great resources. Be sure to ask good questions when speakers visit campus and then ask for their business cards at the end of the event so you can send a follow up email and ask to set up a phone call or a face-to-face meeting.
It is important to be flexible with informational interviews, as professionals lead busy lives. While a face-to-face meeting is always best, don’t overlook a phone interview or even a live chat or email conversation, as any firsthand knowledge can be useful.
Conducting the Interview
Develop a list of questions to ask. Open-ended queries are always best, since they encourage more detailed discussion rather than a simple yes or no response. You will want to introduce yourself and your goals and don’t forget to bring your résumé. While informational interviews are not aimed at getting a job, you never know when a job opportunity might present itself.
Be sure to dress professionally and arrive on time if it will be an in-person meeting. Respect time constraints by limiting the interview to the pre-determined length of time.
Finally, be sure to follow-up with a thank-you note. This leaves the conversation on a positive ending, which professionals will remember later should you seek employment with the organization.
“There is truth in the old cliché, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,’” says Travis Lindsay, entrepreneur in residence for the Center for Entrepreneurship. “This is especially true with informational interviews. Yet such interviews are only one tool in a job seeker’s toolbox. Students who actively network by participating in competitions, attending networking events and working on school or extracurricular projects end up having more career and personal opportunities. Opportunities rarely find you, you have to pursue them.”
For more on career tips, visit Mihaylo Career Services, which will be located at SGMH 2404 through August. Their summer walk-in hours are Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Thursdays from 2 to 6 p.m. For more information, visit them online, call 657-278-8738 or email MihayloCareers@fullerton.edu.