Why do informational interviews matter to your career?

Photo by ankakay

I first wrote this blog post for the Women’s Initiatives Network (WIN) group at SAS. They have been gracious in letting me repost it here.

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I believe that no matter where you are in your career path – beginner, experienced or advanced – it’s important to stay on your toes and nurture the quality of being naturally curious. As humans we all are born with this innate capability of curiosity. As children this quality is further pronounced as we try to engage with and explore the world around us. It’s through this formative emotion that represents a drive to investigate, understand, and learn new things while we go through life and experience things for the first time.

At every stage of our life, we all experience moments that are new and novel to us that require sense making. We attempt to tread that and learn about it in many ways, one of which we’ve all done as children – ask questions! Asking questions and quenching that curiosity centered on a new thing has been an age old tradition that we’ve all graduated from one stage to another as children to adults. It has helped us discover, challenge and stimulate our intellectual curiosity as we mature through the years.

Even through our vocational life, it’s equally important that we try to retain that quality that keeps the learning alive and informational interviews are a great way to achieve that. We all are gifted with the abundance of collective intelligence and knowledge bank gained from our existing network of smart, intelligent and experienced peers and seniors. Each one of us brings something unique to the table based on our background, skills and cultural sensibilities. So why not tap into that collective intelligence of your network to extend and strengthen your vocational learning?

Whether you are out there seeking your first break and trying to get a leg in after college, thinking of transitioning and making a complete career switch from one field to another or vying for the success ladder to get a promotion in your existing job, informational interviews can be a useful medium to help achieve that.

Important considerations – Although I address these types of meetings as ‘interviews’ there is a stark difference in these types of interviews with regular ‘job interviews’ and hence should be treated differently. The focus of this interview should be:

  • Treat it as an opportunity for self-discovery and self-assessment
  • Ask relevant questions centered on that person’s career, company and profession                          
  • Explore the career opportunities that lie within
  • Use it as an avenue to find your motivation and inspiration seeking advice from someone you admire
  •  To network and build on a new contact
  • Overall, really treat it as a learning ground to prepare, improve and build on your skills, qualifications and profession
  • The most important differentiator being, do not treat this opportunity as a back-door entry to a job. Don’t go blatantly seeking a job, it can potentially put-off your interviewee and might result in cutting short your interview time, where you could’ve spent all that time asking great questions and getting to know your contact better!
  • Keep an open mind, respect their time and always walk away thanking your contact for their time and advice.

If done right, you would’ve walked away not only having made a new contact, but someone who could potentially be your mentor down the road, with continued interaction

In addition to acquiring the standard job interviews, seeking the right informational interviews and having the ability to conduct these tactfully will in many ways catapult you and your career in the right direction. So don’t be afraid to ask questions and share that knowledge with your network. Wouldn’t you agree?

Photo by ankakay

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