Summer to-do list: student Informational Interviews
With summer fast approaching, we’re getting our 10th and 11th graders in to take their free SAT and ACT diagnostic exams with us (is your son or daughter signed up yet?)
But there is something even more important than test prep that students should be doing this summer to prepare for college and career…learning about the fields they think they might be interested in working in. I’ve met many people through my life (and I’m sure you have too) who have gone to university for four years (or more) and, having graduated, realized that they don’t actually like any of the jobs related to their field of study. Imagine, if this could have been avoided by spending a few hours doing a little investigation while in high school!
What can students do this summer to learn more about fields they are interested in? They can conduct informational interviews.
What is an informational interview?
It is a short (15 minutes or so) conversation between the student and a professional who works in the student’s field of interest. The information interview gives the student a way to see what working in that industry is really like, from people who do it every day. Doing a few informational interviews might help a student realize that a field they thought they might enjoy actually holds no interest for them whatsoever. Better to find that out now than after 4 years of a university education (or worse, working in the field for years!)
So how can students set up informational interviews?
Step 1 Connect with people in the field you are interested in
You (the student) should talk to adults you know and trust (family, friends, teachers, etc) and ask them if they know anyone who works in the field or industry you are interested in learning about. If so, ask the adult to contact the professional and ask if they would be willing to meet with your for a 15 minute conversation so you can ask some questions about their job and the industry.
If the professional is willing to meet with you, have the adult get contact information (email or phone number) for you. Reach out and schedule a meeting, in person ideally. Make sure that you meet somewhere public (a busy office or a coffeshop work great). If you would feel more comfortable bringing a friend or trusted adult with you, make sure to mention that when you set up your meeting.
Make sure to be early for the meeting, and dress professionally!
Step 2: The interview
They key here is to make sure that 1) you respect your interviewee’s time and stick to the 15 minutes schedule (although some people love talking about themselves or their job so much they might be happy to talk longer!) and 2) you get the most important questions answered, which are questions like:
-What does your typical workday look like/what are the most common tasks you perform on a day to day basis?
-What kind of education or training do you need for your position?
-What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of your job?
-How do you see your job/industry changing in the next 10 years?
-What is something that you think a high school student interested in this industry should know before deciding to pursue it as a career?
These questions will help you get a clear sense of whether this job is something that you would be interested in doing. You might have some industry specific questions, so include those too.
Come with your questions prepared and typed up, and make sure you take good notes!
Remember to get your interviewee’s business card (and if they don’t have one, make sure you have the person’s name, company name, mailing address, and job title)
Step 3: Reflect on the interview and send a thank you card.
This step is very important! After the interview, review your notes, and think about what aspects of the person’s job appeal to you, and what aspects don’t. In your card, thank them for being so generous with their time, and ask for referrals for more informational interviews. It can help here to highlight any aspects of their job that you particularly liked or didn’t like. For example, if your interviewee said that she solves difficult technical problems (which interests you) but does a lot of phone customer support (which you don’t like particularly) mention that and ask about someone she might know that does less (or no) customer support.
Spending a few hours this summer getting to know people in the industries you think you might be interested in can pay HUGE dividends for you. Who knows, but a connection you make right now might lead to a job down the line! But once you’ve talked to a few people and like what you’ve heard about the jobs and industry, it’s time to try to find an internship so you can actually experience the industry first-hand!
Check out the GREAT book “What Color Is Your Parachute For Teens” for more information about informational interviews (and much, much more). I can’t recommend this book enough!
Give us a call if this is something you’d like your son or daughter to have some guidance with this summer!