LEARN ABOUT DREAM CAREERS
If you are interested in breaking into a new career or just want to learn whether a new career might be right for you, chances are someone has suggested you go on "information interviews."
An information interview is a brief meeting with someone who is working in a career you are interested in learning about. It gives you an opportunity to learn about the career while meeting people in that industry.
To arrange an information interview, start with your network of contacts including family and friends to ask if they know anyone working in the field you want to learn about. If possible, go beyond getting a name and telephone number. Ask if they would get in touch with people they know in the industry to see if you can contact them to ask a few questions.
While it usually doesn't hurt to ask anyone for an introduction, realize that in some situations people may not be willing or able to help. For example, we know of a man who expected someone he had met just a few minutes earlier to arrange a meeting for him with an executive at a major movie studio so he could learn about the entertainment industry. He said he was shocked when the man refused to do so.
However, while asking for such an introduction could pay off (as Virgil said, "fortune favors the bold"), don't be surprised if someone isn't willing to risk his own reputation referring someone he has just met to one of his key contacts. Chances are the movie studio executive is overwhelmed with requests for such meetings, so agreeing to such a meeting would be a special favor to a close friend. It's not likely to be a request that an acquaintance of the executive could successfully make, or would want to make, on behalf of a virtual stranger.
If no one in your network knows anyone who works in your career field, you can try arranging meetings by making cold calls. Grab the phone book and start dialing, or do an online search and start emailing. For best results, contact the head of the department that you're interested in working for. But before you contact someone, do some research about that person if possible, so you can personalize your request and explain why you want to meet with that particular person.
Although you are conducting an information interview, it is usually best to avoid using the term "information interview" when you first call. Many professionals assume someone who wants to set up an information interview is actually looking for a job, not simply looking to learn about the profession. So they may decline to meet with you if they do not have any current job openings.
Instead, it may be better to say that you are doing research and politely ask if you can arrange to meet with them for 15-20 minutes to learn about the career. People are much more likely to agree to a meeting if they know it won't take too much time.
It's important to remember that while some people are generous with their time and encouraging to newcomers, others may simply be too busy to meet with everyone who wants career advice. Someone who works in a career field that many people are trying to break into may be inundated with requests for information interviews every week.
If someone you contact says they don't have time for a meeting, politely ask if they know anyone who might be available to talk with you.
Be prepared that someone may not be available for a personal meeting but may be willing to answer questions on the phone or by email.
If someone agrees to a meeting, arrive on time and come prepared with a list of questions such as the following:
Let the person know when the 15 or 20 minute time limit is up, say you know they are busy, and offer to leave. If they are willing to continue that's fine, but don't stay longer without permission. Thank them for their time and any referrals they were able to provide.
Most importantly, this is not the time to ask for a job. A direct request puts the person who has done you a favor by meeting with you in an awkward spot. You can, however, ask if they will keep your resume to pass along and keep on file for future job openings.
After the meeting, send a thank you note to the person you met with and, if someone referred you, thank that person as well. Making a good impression in an information interview could lead to fabulous future opportunities.
by Tag and Catherine Goulet:
FabJob.com is featured in Woman's World Magazine ("Land Your Dream Job" article, April 2007).
FabJob Guides have been featured in stories at The Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur Magazine sites.