Coffee Talks in your Professional Network
Exploring careers from a professional’s first-hand perspective is a valuable way to learn if a particular career is an option for you. Informational interviews are often underutilized opportunities to hear “real talk” about careers and to possibly expand your professional network. Whether you have questions about the day-to-day operations of a job, the proper points of entry for a field of work, the best courses to take, or internship experiences to explore, you’ll find answers that will help develop your thoughts around suitable careers.
WHERE DO I FIND PEOPLE TO INTERVIEW?
- Student-Alumni Career Connect: Career Exploration and Success offers an online, interactive network of Rutgers alumni willing to provide career advice. Search the database by major, job title, employer, and more to learn about alumni career paths. Access SACC here.
- Academic Departments: Consider reaching out to professors, or teaching and research assistants with whom you are in contact. Many remain connected to a community of professionals in their fields of expertise.
- LinkedIn: This professional social networking platform allows you to connect with Rutgers alumni and other professionals individually, by industry, or through LinkedIn groups. Set up a free account and connect with the Rutgers Alumni LinkedIn Group.
- Professional Associations: Professional associations are nonprofit organizations seeking to further particular professions, the interests of individuals engaged in those professions, and the public interest. Some professional associations will offer a student membership.
- Family and Friends: Think about your family, friends, and neighbors. They may work in fields that interest you. Conversations with them may help you learn about career fields.
CONSIDER THESE POINTERS FOR MAXIMIZING INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS:
An important point to consider is that an informational interview can actually serve to build your base of networking contacts. Approach these professional opportunities with the following points in mind.
- Conduct research: Learn what you can about their current or past careers, areas of specialty, and educational backgrounds. Let them know the source by which you’ve identified them and set a short time limit for how long you’d like to speak (i.e., “Do you have time for a 15-minute conversation?”)
- Seek to have conversations, not ask for jobs: One of the best ways to approach your contacts is to lead your requests by humbly telling them that you are seeking career information and that you are simply interested in learning about the work that they do.
- Ask for referrals: At the end of your interview, express a desire to remain in contact if you prefer. Do not wear out your welcome. Ask your contact if they have other colleagues you can connect with to learn more. Be sure to express your thanks after the meeting.
- Follow up with a thank you: Whenever possible, send an email or note of thanks following the interview. A follow-up message shows your appreciation and leaves a strong impression.
These are a few suggestions you can use to explore informational interviews. Consider making an appointment with one of our career advisor for a more customized approach.
SAMPLE QUESTIONS BE PREPARED TO LEAD THE CONVERSATIONS:
You should have a list of questions ready to ask. Samples include:
- Can you tell me about your career path and how you got where you are?
- What are the different entry-level jobs in this career field?
- What do you do on a typical day?
- What background or experience is required or helpful?
- What aspects of this career field do you like/dislike?
- What courses might be helpful for me to enhance my chances for employment in the field?
- How competitive is the job market?
- What is the salary range at the entry-level and higher levels?