Interviews Aren’t Just for Jobs: Enhance Your Professional Development with Informational Interviews

Photo courtesy of Melanie Ford

Photo courtesy of Melanie Ford

This last year, I’ve made a significant effort to schedule informational interviews with people in my area of interest. In an informational interview, the student leads the show. It’s an ideal opportunity to ask questions, make connections and build relationships.  I always look forward to these meetings because I learn something new each time, and they’re an excellent networking opportunity.

In my experiences, the biggest benefit of informational interviews is gaining input and advice from a direct source. Nothing is more fresh, honest and insightful than a discussion with someone who experiences the company or position day in and day out. There is only so much you can learn from reading brochures or scrolling through pages online.

A recent informational interview helped me realize my career goal. I met with a professional in digital marketing at my dad’s company; after hearing about her work, I knew exactly what I wanted to strive toward professionally. If we had not met and talked, I would still be unsure about what path in public relations to take.

An added benefit is that informational interviews are low-pressure. They’re an opportunity to discover and make connections rather than secure a job or internship. You can—and should—certainly inquire about job or internship opportunities, but I focus more on learning and finding a good fit for me and my goals. I always leave with an additional name and number to contact with further questions. It’s a new relationship—a building block for my public relations career.

Even if you already know what direction you want to take, talking with someone can never hurt. Knowledge has no limits.

If you find yourself interested in a position or company, don’t be afraid to set up an informational interview. Feed your curiosity. Take the initiative to learn more about the position or company and about your own goals, too.

For more on this topic, check out 8 Do’s and Don’ts of Informational Interviews by Nick Lucido.

What do you hope to take away from informational interviews? What is your best advice to someone seeking an informational interview?

Kate Robertson is a senior public relations major at Virginia Tech. She plans to attend graduate school next fall and pursue a career in interactive media and digital public relations. Follow her @kate3robertson and visit her blog, A Thought and a Half.

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2 Responses to Interviews Aren’t Just for Jobs: Enhance Your Professional Development with Informational Interviews

  1. Amy Swartzbaugh February 10, 2014 at 12:49 am #

    I am on the executive board for my PRSSA chapter and think this is a great idea! This is the first time I am hearing about informational interviews and was wondering if the interview would work for small groups, possibly for members in my chapter.

    [Reply]

    Kate Robertson Reply:

    I definitely think it would work for small groups! VT’s chapter does agency tours each semester, which is a type of an informational interview. You could get a group of students together to meet with a professional, or visit an agency.

    [Reply]

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