Are you trying to figure out how to choose your major and how it will lead to careers after college? As a career coach who has worked with high school students, I suggest using informational interviews to gather information about different careers.
What is an informational interview? It’s a one-on-one conversation with someone who has a career you might like, works in a field you might want to enter, or is employed by a company that you are interested in learning about. The purpose of informational interviews is to build relationships and ask for advice, not to ask for a job.
You may be intimidated by the word “interview.” Don’t be! People love talking to high school students about their careers and enjoy seeing students be proactive. Here are some tips on preparing for and conducting informational interviews:
- Do your research. Are you considering pursuing a degree in marketing, engineering, English, or medicine? I recommend using the College in Colorado’s website to explore majors as well as career options that they lead to.
- Ask people you know to make introductions to professionals in fields that interest you. You can ask friends, family members, school counselors, and college consultants. If the person makes an introduction by email or passes along a phone number for you to call, make sure to follow up.
- Request an informational interview. When you make the request, introduce yourself, share that you are a high school student and the school you attend, and ask if the person would be willing to meet with you for 30 minutes to discuss his or her occupation. Be ready to schedule an in-person or phone meeting and make sure to put it in your calendar.
- Prepare for your meeting. Before your interview, research the person’s background and information about the company he/she works for. Prepare some questions in advance, such as:
- What do your day-to-day roles and responsibilities look like?
- How did you get started in this field?
- What are the best ways for me to get experience in this field?
- What do you like about your job? What do you dislike about your job?
- What are the most important skills needed to be successful in this field?
- What major(s) would you suggest to prepare me for this field?
- Approach the meeting in a professional manner. Informational interviews are a great way to start building connections; therefore, it is important to act professionally. This means that you need to dress appropriately and arrive 10 minutes early if you are meeting at an office.
- Conduct the interview. During your meeting, it is okay to take notes. Remember, this is not a job interview, so be conversational, relax, and be yourself.
- Ask for the interviewee’s contact information. At the end of the meeting, be sure to ask for the person’s business card so that you have his/her contact information. If you feel comfortable, you can also ask the interviewee to make an introduction to someone else who is in a similar role, works for a different company, or can guide you more on a particular topic.
- Follow up. After your meeting, email the person or write a thank you note within 24 hours. Be sure to mention a specific point the interviewee made that you found interesting. Also, remind the person about making an introduction to someone else, if you requested that.
Keep in mind that the purpose of an informational interview is to help you explore. You might find that you love what you hear about the interviewee’s career, or perhaps you will realize it is not what you expected. You might even learn about opportunities, such as volunteering, internships, or job positions. The goal of this meeting is to help you gain information about the best educational path and opportunities to pursue if you decide to enter that field.
This article is intended to help you get a feel for how to conduct an informational interview. There are many other great resources that can assist you in mastering the art of informational interviewing. These include College in Colorado, college and university career center websites, and Quintessential Careers.
Danielle Roessle is a certified career coach and LCSW who specializes in helping students identify possible majors and rewarding careers through a step-by-step introspective process. Danielle is a graduate of the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work and an instructor through the National Career Development Association. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-443-1093.