Let’s say you’re working in international development, but you have a hunch you’d rather work in communications. But you don’t have a damn clue how to make that transition.
Or maybe you’re a new grad with a Bachelor of Commerce. But you know there are a bajillion things you could do with that and you’re not sure what’s right for you. Or even what your options are.
Or what if you started a career in event management, but you think you might be happier doing something that’s somehow related to holistic wellness. That’s a pretty radical shift. Feels kinda daunting.
Enter the informational interview.
Maybe the word “interview” makes you shudder. If so, every time you see the words “informational interview” I want you to just think coffee with cool people who you want to learn stuff from. Because that’s exactly what informational interviews are — they’re just coffee with cool people who you want to learn career stuff from.
Talking to real people doing real work in an area you think you might be interested in (or one you’re not even sure about because you know so little about it) is the best way to get good information. It’s better than scrolling through social media, or reading books, or Googling your ass off (though those things can be helpful too). Talking to real people about real work gets you real information — the kind of information you need before you can make a big career decision.
If your background is in international development but you think you’d rather work in communications, you’ll want to talk to a lot of people working in communications —and maybe several people working in different areas of communications — to see where you might fit in.
If you have a Bachelor of Commerce but no idea what to do with it, you’ll want to talk to movers and shakers in the business world — maybe even alumni from your school to see what exciting things are out there.
If you’re not diggin’ your event management career and would rather be working in holistic wellness, you’ll want to learn about the many different kinds of holistic wellness work and what that work entails before you make the jump, right?
BTW, if you think these examples are random, they’re not. Clients of mine made these exact transitions. All with the help of informational interviews.
These people started out feeling totally clueless. Until they started to gather information. They gathered some basic stuff from the internet, but they quickly moved on to talk to people IRL to fill their information gaps.
Yeah, but how do I do that?
Glad you asked! First you figure out what your information gaps are. In other words, what information you need to know before you can make a decision. You’ll find some of that on the interwebs, but mostly then you find people who you think might have that information. And then you ask to talk to them. That’s it.
Not sure how to ask for an informational interview? Here’s how to ask for one (plus a handy little email template to use).