Informational Interviewing

Today in my public health class, our teacher used the class period to discuss good practices for those seeking internships and, ultimately, a full-time job. Although I am not a public health major, I found a lot of her advice to be relevant for everyone and anyone, regardless of specific interest. One element of her talk that really stood out for me was her enthusiasm about informational interviewing.

My teacher explained to us that she kicked off her career by conducting informational interviews during her college years. She would ask teachers and others from her professional network for the contact information of people who were already working in the field in which my teacher wanted to become involved. She would then call these contacts, ask for ten minutes of their time, and proceed to ask them, “how did you get to where you are?” and “what steps can I take that will put me on the path to a career like yours?”

My teacher explained that information and advice she was given during these informational interviews helped her secure her first job in public health. They also helped her foster some new professional connections that she has had ever since.

Here are two things that she explained should be the goal of informational interviews:

  1. Emerge from the interview with an established and meaningful connection with the person you interviewed. This person can serve as a valuable resource and contact for you in the future.
  2. Emerge from the interview with the contact information for five of that person’s contacts (with their permission to use their name as a reference with those contacts). These people can provide you with further information and may know of opportunities they could pass along to you. This will help grow your professional network.

Informational interviewing could be a great practice for those of us in the field of public relations, as it represents a form of personalized networking. In addition, it could facilitate a sort of informal mentoring, which could help give us an edge over others in our field.

Do you have any experience with informational interviewing? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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