It’s no secret that career advancement often hinges on not just what you know, but who you know. Networking can be foundational in building a successful career. Informational interviews, in particular, have emerged as a powerful way to connect with professionals, gain insights into industries, and uncover hidden job opportunities.
However, many job seekers don’t understand the importance of informational interviews. Let’s explore what they are and how they can help you in your career journey.
What Are Informational Interviews?
An informational interview is a meeting with a professional in a field or industry you are interested in to gather insights, advice, and knowledge about the industry and potential career paths. For the most part, you will be the one asking questions for the purpose of gaining a better understanding of their field. Unlike job interviews, informational interviews are not about securing a job but about building relationships and acquiring valuable information.
Benefit 1: Expanded Network
One of the primary benefits of informational interviews is the opportunity to expand your professional network. Networking is a vital aspect of a successful job search, and these interviews provide a low-pressure environment to connect with individuals who can offer guidance and potentially refer you to job openings. As you build your network, you increase your chances of learning about hidden job opportunities that aren't publicly advertised.
Benefit 2: Insider Insights
Informational interviews give you access to insider insights into your desired field or industry. You can ask questions about day-to-day responsibilities, industry trends, company cultures, and the skills and qualifications necessary for success. This information is invaluable for tailoring your resume, cover letter, and interview responses to align with the industry's expectations.
Benefit 3: Clarity in Career Goals
Many people struggle with identifying their career goals. Informational interviews can provide clarity by allowing you to explore various career options within your field of interest. These conversations help you better understand what specific roles entail, which ones align with your skills and passions, and which might not be the right fit. This self-discovery can be a crucial step in defining your career trajectory.
Benefit 4: Confidence Boost
Conducting informational interviews can boost your confidence. First, they provide practice in the art of networking and communication, which are essential skills in any job search. Additionally, the knowledge you gain from these interviews can make you feel more informed and prepared when you go to job interviews.
Benefit 5: Access to the Hidden Job Market
A significant number of job openings is never advertised on job boards or company websites; instead, they are only found in the "hidden job market." Informational interviews can be your golden ticket to this hidden market. When professionals get to know you through these conversations, they might think of you when they hear of unadvertised job opportunities, which will give you a competitive advantage.
Benefit 6: Personalized Job Search Strategy
Every job seeker is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Informational interviews allow you to create a job search strategy that is tailored to your skills, interests, and career goals. By gathering advice from professionals who have successfully navigated your desired field, you can develop a plan that maximizes your chances of landing the right job.
Benefit 7: Building Professional Relationships
Building professional relationships is at the core of informational interviews. These conversations are not just about gaining information but also about forming connections with experienced professionals who can become mentors or advocates in your career journey. Professional relationships can open doors and provide ongoing support and guidance.
Benefit 8: Demonstrating Initiative
Employers value candidates who demonstrate initiative and a genuine interest in their industry. By reaching out and arranging informational interviews, you are showing a proactive approach to your career search. This initiative can make you stand out in a sea of job applicants and leave a positive impression on potential employers.
How to Conduct Informational Interviews:
Identify Professionals: Start by reaching out to professionals through networking platforms like LinkedIn or by tapping into your existing network. Don't be shy! Many individuals appreciate the opportunity to assist and often feel flattered when approached for guidance.
Craft a Compelling Pitch: Introduce yourself professionally. From there, explain your career goals, express genuine interest in their insights and provide a few dates to meet.
Prepare Thoughtful Questions: Take the time to consider what information would be most helpful for you as you start to make your decision on whether the career would be a good fit for you or not. For instance, you could ask:
About their career journey
What their day to day looks like (is it the same or is each day different?)
What skills they find most valuable
What is one of their most challenging experiences in their role
What advice they may have for someone entering the field.
Be Aware of Meeting Length: Try to keep the meeting to around 30 minutes. You want to be able to get useful information out of the meeting while being respectful of their time. Of course, if the conversation is flowing and they have time the conversation can go longer. Use your best judgement.
Post Meeting Follow Up: Follow up with a thank-you email expressing gratitude for their time and insights. Even throw in a gift card for coffee if you’d like!
In your career journey, informational interviews can significantly enhance your prospects. These conversations provide not only knowledge but also an expanded network, increased confidence, and a personalized strategy. They can open doors to the hidden job market and help you build meaningful professional relationships. Finding the right people to interview and asking the right questions are very important for a successful informational interview. If you feel uncertain about how to get started, a career coach can guide you through the process and help you go into your meeting prepared to make a good impression and a valuable contact.
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