The lazy, hazy days of summer ….. well, they certainly do not have to be lazy. Alongside internships, part-time jobs and family vacations summer is a great time for your student to conduct informational interviews or engage in job shadowing. Doing so is sure to enhance the chances of being gainfully employed upon graduation, a target that I am sure you want your student to hit.
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, 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 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. Typically they enjoy the chance to “shine” while offering valuable nuggets of information that your student may not be able to access otherwise. Workers “on the ground” can offer a real-time perspective of a specific job, a specific company, the job market in general or current market 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. 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 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
As a parent, you can be a valuable resource for your student by sharing contacts and making suggestions about who to approach. And please refer them to our Informational Interviewing Guide found on the Career & Internship Services website: http://www.highpoint.edu/careerinternships/files/2013/06/NEW-Informational-Interviewing-Guide.pdf. 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.
If you are a parent of an incoming freshman, here are a few additional steps that your student can take. If followed, these will definitely result in a less stressful senior year (adapted from a post on LinkedIn by Paul Richardson):
Step 1 – Develop a keen realization that the job search starts the fall of freshman year. This is not a typo. Your student simply cannot wait to get the ball rolling and should CONNECT with Career & Internship Services, even if they just connect online through PantherLink – https://highpoint-csm.symplicity.com/students/
Step 2 – Attend networking functions on campus (many with outside guest speakers). These events may not be titled “networking function” but there are hundreds of events where networking occurs; they should find out what is going on and ENGAGE.
Step 3 – If possible, they should attend alumni events (or volunteer to assist); this is a HUGE step that far too many students overlook. HPU alumni live and work all over the country and are eager to be a resource for current students.
Step 4 – Start the process of researching internships, relevant part-time, volunteer or summer opportunities. Now is the time to start moving away from typical after-school or summer employment and start focusing on building relevant, career-focused experiences (including substantive volunteering).
Step 5 – Close the loop and follow-up. If your student is not already in the habit of writing prompt, handwritten thank-you notes when a connection invests time or extends a courtesy, you may want to purchase him/her special note cards to encourage this habit. A well-written, timely thank-you note can help a student STAND OUT in a very competitive climate. For regular LinkedIn users, I would like to recommend an excellent post from May 27 by Stephanie Ruhle, Anchor/Managing Editor, Bloomberg TV/News titled “If I Were 22: When Did You Last Say Thank you?” This post drives home the point that thank-you notes really can make (or break) opportunities.
If these steps are taken seriously, it is likely that when it comes time to get a “real job” they will have one. If your student would like to meet with a staff member in Career & Internship Services soon after the fall semester gets underway, please encourage him/her to email Jen Paolino at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment with a professional Career Advisor. Finally, we are currently making improvements to our webpage and invite you and your student to visit us at http://www.highpoint.edu/careerinternships/
– Kellie McLeod, Career & Internship Services