Informational interviewing is basically an investigative conversation with a person who is doing what you aspire to do. It is NOT a job interview and should not be treated as such.
In this exchange, typically about 30 to 45 minutes, a student will ask questions about the professional’s career path and seek advice about the most effective strategies for entering the field. Really, you are asking professionals to tell their story, relate it to today’s job market and offer to be a resource – a win all the way around. Most professionals are happy to do this and feel flattered when asked. Workers “on the ground” can offer a real-time perspective of a specific job, a specific company, current market trends in the field, or the job market in general.
Job shadowing takes the informational interview to the next level and allows the student to spend a half-day or entire day observing a professional on-the-job. The student can observe meaningful work activity, the work culture of the organization and feel the flow of a typical workday. A request to shadow a professional should be made with adequate advance notice so that there is time to get approval to host a visiting student if needed.
Some specific benefits of informational interviewing/job shadowing for students are:
- Help clarify goals and develop effective strategies for reaching them
- Good preparation for future job interviews
- Build confidence while discussing interests, skills and goals
- Expand their network of career-related contacts
- Find leads for conducting additional informational interviews/job shadowing
- Learn more about specific work settings or a specific employer
- Get advice about career search strategies within a specific industry; every industry has “insider” tracks
- Discover “hidden” internships and/or full-time opportunities that may never be posted
For more info on informational interviewing, please refer to our guide.