The Informational Interview: What’s that career really like?
Careers. Glittering possibilities. Exciting interactions with co-workers. Rumors. Romance in the workplace. Obnoxious bosses. Workplace politics.
Most of what we know about careers comes from secondary sources: books, radio, the Internet and TV. Many of these sources glorify the interesting aspects of the job while downplaying day-to-day realities. Television programs may provide superficial, dramatized views of careers, or portray unrealistic situations. CSI programs, for example, combine only the exciting portions of three different jobs into one dramatic, but non-existent, career path.
No substitute for accurate information. Obviously you should already be learning about areas and careers that interest you. Strategies for this are located elsewhere on this site, and many important resources are located in the Transition Center as well.
Reality testing. Once you’ve identified potential careers, you may wonder what’s it’s like to be in that job every day and for the long haul. Better yet, how do you help determine if that career really suits you? An informational interview (either casual or formal) with someone actually satisfied with your dream job may be what you need to see the pros and cons of a particular career and to see past the hype.
Some questions during an informational interview:
- How did you decide on this career? What path brought you to where you are today?
- What do you like about your job? Why?
- What do you find the most challenging or rewarding? Why?
- What do you dislike or find the most frustrating to you personally? Why?
- What opportunities for career exploration (internships, etc) would be beneficial?
- If you could do it all over again, what would you do (differently)?
- What advice would you give to someone starting out now?
- Who else would you recommend for an additional interview?
Some things to consider after the interview:
- Note the detours and roundabout paths people take. It’s rarely a straight path.
- Pay special attention to the rewards and frustrations of the career expressed by others. Compare these with your own potential responses to the same circumstances.
- Remember that people unhappy in their career choice tend to emphasize negatives.
Some help to start:
- A great “practice” interview could be a parent or family friend.
- On-campus personnel can suggest potential alumni contacts.
- A neutral location, like a coffee shop, may be a good place for an interview to occur.
Like most skills, this will get easier with practice, and the possibilities are endless!