What is an Informational Interview?
Informational interviews are meetings/calls with industry professional where you get to ask the questions. These are intended for you to learn more about specific jobs, industries and positions in order for you to decide if they are a good fit for you. This can be especially helpful if you are considering multiple industries or comparing companies.
Career Exploration is for everyone but this is especially important for freshman and sophomores who are undecided on the type of career they would enjoy. Juniors and Seniors, don’t skip this step; if you want to set a strong first impression and build a network you can lean on during internship and job searching, this is also a great way to start that process.
Identify People in positions of interest
Lehigh Connects, student to alum mentor program: Review over 1,000 mentor profiles and filter to identify a mentor that aligns with your career interests
LinkedIn Career Insights: Review over 50,000 Lehigh profiles to see professional details and educational information
Determine if any friends or family work in positions of interest
Ask your network (classmates, neighbors, family, friends, etc) for referrals to their connections who work in areas of interest
Start with a message that introduces yourself and includes details about what you hope to get out of a meeting or phone call. This should include basic information about yourself, your availability to meet or talk (dates and times), and contact information. You can schedule an informational interview anytime, and semester breaks give you some extra flexibility to communicate.
My family friend, Joe Schmoe, shared your name and email with me as recommendation of a successful professional with in ____________. I am currently a freshman/sophomore studying __________ at Lehigh University and am very interested in completing career exploration in your field. It was my hope that we could meet so I could learn more about your career, the culture of your company, and your advice for me to prepare for working in positions like __________ or ______________. Specifically, I would also love the opportunity to job shadow with you during my winter break, and I am available between January 3-19 for partial or full days. My schedule is flexible during break and I would love to spend time at your office to get a sense to what real life projects you complete, the team dynamics that are in place and ask questions of you and your co-works so I can assess if this would be a good fit for my future career. In case you would like to review it, I have also attached my resume. I would love to hear back from you and appreciate any assistance you might be able to offer.
Thank you for accepting my connection request on LinkedIn and sharing your email with me. As you may have seen from my profile, I am studying _________ at Lehigh University and plan to graduate in May 20XX. My hope is to begin an internship/full-time position in the summer of 2018 and I would especially enjoy positions/departments such as _________ and _________. As I am in the process of organizing my application materials and identifying open positions, I would love an opportunity to better understand the company culture and work you do at (add company name here). I have an extended winter break and would love to come meet with you to ask you questions about your organization and career as well as shadow you on a typical work day. If you are open to hosting me, I am available January 3-19 and would appreciate the opportunity to learn as much as I can about careers within ______________. In an effort to be confident in my career choices, I value your thoughts, advice and insight and would appreciate spending some time with you. I have also included my resume in case you would like to review it or share it with your co-workers.
Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.
(your name here)
Need more help drafting a message to an alum or industry contact? You can also use the online tool Mango to help you draft a message.
Don’t forget networking etiquette
Proof reed, Poof read, Proof read! Grammatical errors in your emails, sloppy messages or slang can negatively shape a first impression. Make sure you review your emails carefully, use your please and thank yous and promptly respond to any communication you receive. And don’t wait til the last minute! Reaching out 2-4 weeks before your availability starts ensures your contacts have time to respond before the holidays, can arrange the meet up to include co-workers/presentations, tours, etc and/or have time to get clearance from managers if needed.
Build a set of questions to ask
Do your research first, learn everything you can about the company or person via their websites, LinkedIn pages, social media and a google search. Use the informational quick guide or Questions for Your Mentor Quick Guide attachments on the networking tile on handshake to review sample questions but try to customize these to your field. Think about what you need to know to determine if this job, company or industry would be a good fit for you.
Dress the part;business professional is likely the best approach but you can also ask “When preparing for our meeting, is there anything special I should bring with me? Also, what is the dress code for you office?”
Have a resume ready in case they ask for it or request to share it with a contact.
Respond to communication from your contact within 1-2 business days
Make sure your voicemail on your phone has a professional message and is not full
After your meeting or conversation send a thoughtful thank you email or note and ask to stay in contact.