"When people go to work, they shouldn't have to leave their hearts at home."
The first career research article addressed using written resources for information. In this article I'd like to address how people can be a great resource for helping you increase your chances of choosing a rewarding career.
The Power of People
You can read about careers extensively, and you'll probably never get the same kind of information you'll get by talking with people. The clients who utilize people in their career research will tell me that over and over again. There's nothing like getting the information straight from the source.
Informational interviewing is talking with professionals in an occupation you're considering in order to get the inside scoop on that occupation. So, if you're interested in becoming an Animal Behaviorist, what you want to do is find one, and ask that person all sorts of questions about their profession. Some questions you might want to ask include:
"What do you like about this field?"
"What don't you like about this field?" (this can be even more revealing than the previous question)
How did you get into this field?
"What things should I be doing if I want to get into this field?"
"If you were going to replace yourself tomorrow, what qualities would you look for in your replacement?" (you'll want to cultivate those qualities in yourself assuming you don't have them already)
The last question you should always ask is:
"Is there anyone else you know that I can talk to about this profession?" That's a good question because, if you get a name, you have an in with that person. In other words, you can call that person and say something like, "Jane Doe recommended I speak with you." That's much more powerful than a cold call!
Other People You Can Talk With
Another good source of information is "Hire Power People." Let's say you're interested in becoming an Interior Designer. You might want to talk with the director or owner of an architectural firm that hires Interior Designers to find out what qualities, education, and experience they look for in their hires. This can certainly help in a job search and, as part of a career search, it can give you an idea of the kind of people they want to have working for them. Ask yourself if you own the qualities they are looking for, and if you want to pursue the types of education and gain the type of experience they're looking for. Also, talking with "Hire Power People" can pay off in other ways. It gives you contact with people who you may someday encounter as part of your job search. And remember, often it's not what you know, it's who you know!
Finally, if you are retraining for a career, don't forget to talk with the faculty members who are teaching the career related courses you're taking. Often these instructors are privy to what is going on in the field, and many of them may be actually working in the field while teaching part-time.
The Logistics of the Informational Interview
You may be saying "Ok, this is all fine and well, but I'm interested in possibly becoming a Market Research Analyst, and I really don't know any - how am I going to find one to sit down and talk with me?" There are a few different ways...
Use Your Network
First, you want to utilize your network. Tell everyone you know that you're looking for a Market Research Analyst. Or ask if they know of anyone who works in the marketing field. Your network includes family, friends, acquaintances, other professionals whose services you use (e.g. your barber, doctor, etc.), and even people you might meet at a party. Ask if they know of anyone, or if they might know someone who knows someone. People are usually more than happy to be helpful in this regard. So, your first resource is your network.
Contact Your Alma Mater
If you're a college grad, the next stop would be your alma mater. Sometimes the alumni association or the guidance office there will develop a list of alum who will volunteer for assignments like informational interviews.
Another good option is something I spoke of in my first article about written research resources. Professional associations may be able to provide you with members who volunteer as informational sources. So a quick call to an organization may link you up with folks who will be happy to talk with you.
Social Networking Sites
Social Networking Sites can be another possible source of contacts. And professional networking sites like LinkedIn can be a particularly good resource.
Finally, you have the cold-call. Use the internet yellow pages to find people in whatever profession you're interested in and give them a call to see if they'll take some time to talk with you. I believe the average turn-down rate for an informational interview cold-call is about 50%. So, 50% of the time they won't talk with you. But that means 50% of the time they will talk with you so, if you have a tough shell for rejection, this can be a possible avenue.
Two Things You Want Your Contact To Know
When you request an informational interview, you need to make a couple of things clear to your interviewee- first, they need to know that you are not looking for a job, you are looking for career information only. Then they need to know the amount of time you are requesting to spend with them. This probably shouldn't exceed half an hour and it would be better if it were closer to 20 minutes. And, when they meet with you, try not to exceed that time limit.
The Thank-You Note
Before you leave the interview, thank them for their time and ask for a business card. Use the card to get the information you need to send them a hand-written thank you note. In the age of email this sounds a bit old-fashioned, but a hand-written note will be noticed and appreciated more than an email. They have taken some of their valuable time to meet with you and probably at no advantage to themselves. You don't want to take shortcuts recognizing and appreciating this fact. Also, you want to stand out in this person's mind - after all, you never know when you might need this person's advice again in the future or when you might meet again - in a job interview perhaps?!
People can be a very valuable resource in choosing a career. Utilize them to help you improve your chances of finding fulfilling employment.
"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."