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If you spend all of your time online doing research, you'll never really know whether a company or an industry matches your lifestyle considerations. An online search usually won't tell you how people work together, what balance you'll have with your life, or if you'll autonomy. Informational interviewing is a key resource for determining the right fit for you. It's asking people who work in your industry of interest what it's like to do their job, or what it's like to work for their company. This technique can be used at any point, whether you're thinking about changing jobs or moving into your next level of your career.
There some key steps to effectively gain information with this technique. The first step is to review your career profile to determine the priorities for the interview. You want to come prepared with three to five questions or conversational prompts that will help you determine your fit with the industry, role, or company. If you ask behavioral-based questions, you're more likely to get an authentic picture. For example, tell me what your typical work hours are like, or give me an example of a time when you've collaborated, and there has been disagreements, how was that resolved? The second step is to identify the appropriate people to speak with regarding your questions.
You want to consider potential team members, direct reports, and also bosses. Each type of person will give you a different perspective that will be beneficial. The best contacts will be leads that you can attain directly or from referrals. Great sources for these contacts are professional networking sites, professional associations, and networking events targeted to your area of interest. The third step is to request an informational interview from one of these contacts.
You can email them or call them. Let the person know that you're exploring career options and are interested in what they do and the company they're working for. You should be considerate of the person's time, ask for 20 to 30 minutes and give them some possible dates and times to respond to. These are best to do in person, at their company if possible. During your meeting you want to direct the conversation by asking your questions; however, listening is going to be the most important aspect of the interview.
You really want to learn what their job is like or how the culture of the company or industry is, so listen and take notes if necessary. During this interview you don't want to ask for a job. This person was kind enough to give you their time, respect them by keeping your interview to information only. However, if they do ask if you're job hunting, feel free to let them know you're exploring options, but don't push your resume on them. Your goal is to build a relationship with them, not to make them feel pressured.
At the end of the meeting, ask to stay in touch and connect through professional networking sites if you use them. Thank them and then be sure to follow up with a simple thank you card after the interview. If you'd like more advice on informational interviews, jobhuntersbible.com has multiple resources to guide you through the process. Informational interviews are great. They give you insight to new careers and companies, but they also help you build your professional network.
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