If you’ve ever thought about changing careers, chances are you’ve had questions about what you’ll be jumping into.
Luckily for you, there’s a way to look before you leap: The informational interview.
Spending a few minutes with someone who already does what you’re thinking about doing is priceless.
But you will only get one chance to get it right, so you’ll need to go into your informational interview with the right mindset.
And you may be surprised that many people go in with a “bombing” mindset that is completely and totally wrong.
But you don’t have to be one of them.
Bombing Your Informational Interview
There are a few things that might go wrong during your interview, but there’s one sure way of bombing.
You see, because an informational interview is about getting information, people assume that they can go into it empty handed with a “tell-me-what-I-need-to-know” attitude.
That’s just not true.
You can’t go into an informational interview and expect the person you’re interviewing to do all the work.
But that’s just what many people do.
Informational Interview Tips
I recently had a conversation with Kerry. She wanted to break into a field she knew nothing about and wanted some advice about how to start.
Of course, one of the ideas we talked about was that she conduct a series of informational interviews.
“That’s great!” she said. “I’ll ask them what they think I should do to get started in this field.”
Um, no. [Insert bombing sounds here.]
If you (who already knows where you are in your career/education/skills/experience) don’t know what you should do, how do you expect someone who is just now meeting you over coffee to make that assessment?
Beyond that, how much work are you expecting this person to do for you?
Mastering the Informational Interview
The first rule of the informational interview is that you treat the other person as if they are doing you a favor.
Because they are.
It’s rude to go in expecting them to do all the work.
If you don’t know what specific questions to ask that might help you create a plan to move forward in your career, you will be very disappointed with the outcome of your interview.
The work you need to do upfront is to create a master list of questions you need answered to help you with your career goals.
Ask yourself “What would I need to know to be able to make a career move with confidence?”
Then you’ll need to figure out which questions on your list this specific person might be able to help you answer.
Of course, a series of good questions can always be followed up with “What else do you think I should know?”
This can help cover you for the things you didn’t know to ask.
Success = The Right Informational Interview Questions
You will need to do all the analysis of what you need to know, and not expect the person you’re interviewing to do that heavy lifting.
If you go in asking good questions, you’ll be doing the work, but you’re much more likely to get the information, the connections, the yeses you need.