Preview the Job Fit - Informational Interviewing
Would you buy a car without knowing about its features, gas mileage, upkeep reputation,
and cost? Most people spend time talking to others and researching various models and makes.
Most people DO NOT spend as much time doing a reality check on potential careers.
Serena, an Idealist Champion, had spent three years teaching in an inner city school.
She believed in what she was doing, but was feeling worn out. Enrolling in a college
career class, she talked about becoming a counselor or a reading specialist or a corporate
trainer. When faced with doing informational interviewing, she balked. "I love talking
to people, but how can I approach perfect strangers to do a favor for me." Other students
in the class and the career center provided her with some leads. After interviewing two
people in each line of work, she was more definite about her choice. "I don't feel
inspired about corporate training. The reading specialist also seems too mechanical,
too tame. The counseling position is right for me because I can still make a difference."
Informational interviews are of value when you are selecting a career, changing a career,
or changing a company. First, ask friends, family, colleagues, and your alumni group or
career center to give you leads on people to interview. Then call to arrange the interview.
Specify that you are not looking for a job, but for information to find an appropriate career
choice for yourself. Most people will grant you an in-person interview; others will grant
phone interviews; a few will turn you down.
Questions to ask about the job/field:
- How did you get started in this field?
- What does it take to get started now?
- What skills and education are needed to enter this field?
- What's the best thing about the kind of work you do and what is the worst?
- What are your major responsibilities?
- How do you spend a typical day/week?
- What kinds of problems do you deal with? What kinds of decisions do you make?
Questions to ask about the company:
- What is this company known for?
- What is the mission of your organization?
- What is the corporate culture like?
- Tell me about the philosophy and opportunities for training.
Think of other questions you'd like to ask. Think about your values or principles.
They need to be a reasonable match for the company. How did the people dress and act?
Would you feel comfortable doing what they do?
Guardians tend to think that there is a normal way to behave and can are surprised when
the corporate culture seems strange. Artisans may need more freedom than a particular type
of job or company will allow them. Idealists are most affected by values conflict and have
a hard time getting motivated if they can't feel their contributions are making a difference.
Rationals can be blind to day-to-day realities because they can get caught up in their visions
for the future. If the company can't share those visions, they will not like working there.
So if you need to make a change, save yourself some grief by doing a bit of investigation
first. Your job is even more valuable to you than your car!