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Why Informational Interviews Are Essential to Your Career Change

Have you ever thought about changing your career, but wondered how to even begin?

Informational interviews are one of the best ways to discover what careers are available in your communities and how they may (or may not!) work for you. The information you can gain from informational interviews can provide you with so much more than what you can get from social media or the internet.

Why would someone take the time to talk or meet with me?

People are often hesitant about approaching employers to ask for their time. Having done over 20 informational interviews over three career transitions, I can tell you that employers are willing to give you their time and, more often that not, welcome the interactions.

Here are four reasons why:

  1. People like to talk about themselves – think about the common question you are often asked when you meet someone at a party or event – what do you do?
  2. Proactive employers are always looking for new employees, even when there are no openings. There is always turnover in companies and so it makes sense to have people in mind in case openings happen. Smart employers know this.
  3. Employers may be looking to move to another industry, company or transition to a new career themselves, so they will be open to networking opportunities.
  4. Most employers also like to help people out – it’s human nature to want to help others. And by meeting people in person, employers can learn a lot more about them, than can be found on a resume, application, or the web.

Pitfalls of approaching employers

When contacting employers to meet for an informational interview avoid these pitfalls:

  • Asking for time – but not being specific

Ideally you want to ask for 15-20 minutes of their time (conveniently a coffee break). This helps address the objection: “I’m too busy.” Honour the time you have asked for – making sure you wrap up when you said you would. Often employers will give you more time, but ensure you stick to the time you initially asked for before expecting more from them.

  • Making it all about you!

Yes, you want the employer to understand about your qualifications, but remember this meeting is about research – you are researching the company, the person you are meeting with and their role. It’s not about you monopolizing the conversation about how great you are!

  • Not asking for referrals

Always end your meeting with, “Do you know someone I could speak to further about _______ (particular career, industry, role)?” Of course, the information you got from speaking to them may be very useful, but knowledge is power and the more professional connections you make, the better.

  • Being unprepared

I’ve also conducted many informational interviews from the employer’s side and have seen my fill of too many unprepared job seekers. Take the time to do a little research on the company prior to your meeting so you avoid asking obvious questions that can be answered by your research.

Compile a list of questions you plan to ask so use the employer’s time wisely. This also shows you are organized and can manage time – both skills employers are looking for in new employees.

  • Lack of follow-up

Always follow up with a written thank you card after your meeting. Not an email that is easily deleted.

Continue to check in once a month with the person you met with, with a short note, email or call. Keep your new contacts in the loop as to how your research is going. If they do refer you to someone else to meet, ensure you thank them and let them know once you’ve met their referral how the meeting went.

In this fantastic infographicProgressus Therapy illustrates the knowledge that can be gained from an information interview. It demonstrates the differences between a career as an occupational therapist and as a physical therapist. Progressus Therapy is a national company that partners with school districts and early intervention programs to match therapy candidates with careers.*

So, why not set up an informational interview? It just might be the start to a new career! Reach out to me or another coach if you need the support to begin doing these meetings!

*Thanks to Progressus Therapy for providing this infographic.

Thinking of hiring a career coach to help you land your dream job? Connect with Mary, browse our directory of career coaches and get a FREE consultation or request a personalized coach recommendation!

About the Author Mary Kruger

Mary works with overwhelmed professional women who are stuck in their career, by helping them rise above the competition, get the job they truly want and the money they deserve - faster and with less hassle. She specializes in working with mom’s, (she’s a mom too!) - helping them gain balance, clarity and success, taking back their lives as she did with hers. With over 10 years of coaching, Mary has helped more than 1,200 people overcome the isolation, frustration and discouragement job search can bring. Contact Mary on Noomii or her website to find out how she can help you find the job of your dreams.

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