Informational Interviewing & Job Shadowing
An informational interview is 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, you 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.
A Guide to Asking for an Informational Interview
Dear Contact Name: Explain to the reader your name, your major, and where you go to school. Share your career and industry interests. Tell the contact why you are asking them (as opposed to someone else) for their advice. Mention their expertise, company knowledge, or who referred you to speak with them. Ask the contact if he or she would be able to meet with you briefly to discuss their career path. Share days and times that you might be available to meet either in person or speak over the phone. Thank the contact for reading this email. Sincerely, Your Name
Job shadowing takes the informational interview to the next level and allows you to spend a half-day or entire day observing a professional on-the-job. You 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 advance notice so that there is time to get approval to host a visiting student if needed. Some benefits of informational interviewing/job shadowing include: clarify goals and develop effective strategies for reaching them; prepare for future job interviews; expand your network of career-related contacts; get advice about career search strategies within a specific industry; and discover “hidden” internships and/or full-time opportunities that may never be posted.