Background Information About Informational Interviews
Here's a startling statistic: One out of every 200 resumes (some studies put the number as high as 1,500 resumes) results in a job offer. One out of every 12 informational interviews, however, results in a job offer. That's why informational interviewing is the ultimate networking technique, especially considering that the purpose of informational interviewing is not to get job offers. Job offers just happen to be a delightful side benefit to this valuable practice.
Informational interviewing is just what it sounds like -- interviewing designed to produce information. What kind of information? The information you need to choose or refine a career path, learn how to break in and find out if you have what it takes to succeed. Informational interviewing is an expanded form of chatting with your network contacts. It's the process of spending time with one of your network contacts in a highly focused conversation that provides you with key information you need to launch or boost your career.
The term "informational interviewing" was invented by Richard Nelson Bolles, author of the best-selling career guide of all time, What Color Is Your Parachute? Bolles refers to the process as "trying on jobs to see if they fit you." He notes that most people screen jobs and companies after they've already taken a job, while informational interviewing gives you the opportunity to conduct the screening process before accepting a position.
An informational interview is not the same as a job interview by any means, but it is probably the most effective form of networking there is. Terry Carles, a student recruitment counselor at Valencia Community College reports, "I teach career development, and my students are required to do an informational interview. Every semester, someone returns with a job, internship, etc., from their experience."
When you are considering entering or changing to a certain career path, it just makes all kinds of sense to talk to people in that field. Yet most people never do. They trust their professors, textbooks, or romantic notions about professions gleaned from TV or movies. When you really think about it, you miss out on an incredible opportunity if you fail to research your career field by talking to people in it.
The best way to learn what you really want in a career is to talk with the people in that career field. Because of the exploratory nature of informational interviews, they are particularly effective for those, such as college students, who are just embarking on their careers. They are also an excellent tool for career-changers who want to find out what's involved in the career they are considering entering. Even for those who don't wish to change careers but do want to change jobs, informational interviews can be a helpful way of discovering what working for other companies would be like.
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