Informational interviews are conversations with experienced professionals about their jobs, professional development, and career advice. They give you the opportunity to ask meaningful questions to individuals with the first-hand experience in the industries and companies you are interested in.
Why are informational interviews important?
It is helpful to learn from professionals who have gone through the process of finding a job and have experience working in your field of interest. They can be helpful resources as you begin planning your post-graduation life. Informational interviews may also give you insider information on tips, tricks, and guidance for obtaining your dream job. Instead of considering an informational interview as a way to secure a job offer, use it as a learning experience that may be a stepping stone in your career as you gather more information.
Who do you contact for informational interviews?
There are several ways to tap into your network to find people for informational interviews.
Option 1: Friends
If you know someone from childhood, high school, or college who has a job you find interesting, reach out! Talking to friends is the easiest and most comfortable way to have an informational interview. If you’ve never done one before, it might be helpful to start off talking with a friend about their job until you become comfortable with approaching someone you don’t know as well.
Option 2: Your College/Alumni Network
Many colleges and universities have online networks where alumni have opted to provide their personal contact information to students of their alma mater. Although it can be slightly nerve-wracking to email a stranger, most alumni are very open to talking with current students about their careers. At the very least, you are connected by the same school, which is a great way to start a conversation! Not sure what resources your campus offers? Contact your career center to find out what’s available.
Option 3: LinkedIn
Your online professional network can be another great resource to ask people about their jobs. Feel free to refer back to our previous LinkedIn blog post if you need tips on how to continue to build your stellar LinkedIn profile. Use your profile to connect with people from companies or organizations you are interested in and see if you can set up a time to speak with them.
Option 4: Networking Events
Attend events on campus or in your city that promote career development. Most college career centers will host events that bring together people from various industries to talk about their jobs. Use these opportunities to connect one-on-one. Many larger cities also provide networking groups in specific industries and interests. Consider joining one to meet new people and increase your exposure to the field.
Before we get to the how, let’s talk about the why. Why do you need a LinkedIn profile?
You might be thinking, “I have years of college left…I don’t need to start looking for a job now.” While this may be true, we believe in the old adage: the early bird gets the worm! If you start thinking about your professional goals now, you will be more prepared when the time comes to find a job, internship, or volunteer opportunity.
LinkedIn is a great way to establish an online presence and grow your professional network (i.e. find people who can help you build your future plans). These connections may also be the first step to help you score a great internship.
How do you build a strong LinkedIn profile as a college student? Here are five easy steps to get started or to spiff up your profile:
1. Post a Professional Profile Photo
Remember LinkedIn is not Facebook. It is a professional networking site—everything you do, add or write on this platform will be seen by hundreds of fellow professionals. You should post a professional photo (preferably a professional headshot) that establishes you as someone employers would want to hire.
Tips for your perfect professional photo:
2. Write a Clear Summary
An effective summary should answer these three questions: Who are you? What do you do? What are you looking for? Use first or third-person to write your summary. Don’t forget to highlight your interests and impressive achievements.
Grab professionals’ attention by sharing something about yourself that isn’t shared in your resume.
David Brown is a second year Business Administration student at UC Riverside. He is passionate about marketing, advertising, and social media. He is seeking a summer internship to apply his experience assisting a company’s branding needs through social media outreach, developing marketing plans, digital marketing, and conducting customer research.
Specialties: event planning, social networking and marketing, account management, Microsoft Office, Adobe CS5.5 Suite.
3. Add Education and Work Experience
Use this online resume to showcase the stuff that matters: leadership positions, internships, and jobs. Make sure to use strong action verbs (research, manage, copy edit, collaborate, invent, etc.) to describe your experiences.
4. Add Skills and Experience
Are you a Photoshop guru? Is French your second language? Do you live and breathe social media marketing? Awesome! Add it to your skills section.
You can also use LinkedIn to showcase your recommendations and endorsements from professors, employers, and connections. Recommendations indicate to the online world that your previous bosses adored you, and endorsements allow you to show your skills.
5. Check for Grammar and Spelling Mistakes
Just like your resume, your LinkedIn profile should be error-free. After you have completed your profile ask a friend or family member to proof it.