The Holidays are a Great Time to Conduct an Informational Interview or Engage in a Day of Career Shadowing

Kellie McLeod, Career & Internship Services

This fall semester is quickly coming to a close, which means that the holidays are upon us and your student will have almost one month off!


Freshmen should use this time to conduct a few informational interviews or engage in a day or two of job shadowing.  Doing so is sure to enhance the chances of choosing a major that “fits” and landing an interesting internship in the next few years, things that I am sure you hope will happen.   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 viewed as such).  In this exchange, your student will ask questions about the professional’s career path and seek advice about the most effective strategies for entering the field.  Really, your student is asking professionals to talk about themselves and tell their professional story.  Most people are happy to do this and feel flattered when asked.  They generally enjoy the process of elaborating about their career path and offer valuable nuggets of information that your student may not have access to otherwise.  For example, professionals “on the ground” can offer a real-time perspective of the job market and current hiring trends in the field.


Job shadowing takes the informational interview to the next level and allows the student to spend a half-day or an entire day observing a professional on-the-job, experiencing what it is like to work in a field or with a specific company.  The student can observe meaningful work activity, the “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 if needed, the professional has time to get approval to host a visiting student.


Some specific benefits for students who do informational interviewing/shadowing are:

  • Help clarify goals and develop effective strategies for reaching them
  • Build confidence in their ability to discuss career interests/skills, and goals in preparation for future job interviews
  • Expand their network of career-related contacts
  • Find leads for conducting additional Informational Interviews
  • Learn more about specific work settings or a specific employer
  • Get advice about career search strategies within a specific industry
  • Discover “hidden” internships and/or full-time opportunities


As a parent, you can be a valuable resource for your student by sharing your contacts and making suggestions about who to approach.  And please refer them to our Informational Interviewing Guide found on the Career & Internship Services website:  This guide is user-friendly and packed with information about how to identify people to interview/shadow, questions to ask, and tips for following-up so that the professional connection remains fresh and useful.   Also, if your student would like to meet with a staff member in Career & Internship Services for guidance on how to approach doing an informational interview over the holidays, please encourage him/her to email Jen Paolino at to schedule an appointment with a professional Career Advisor.


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