Have you thought about which college you’d like to attend or what type of career you’d like to have? You should. According to the latest Gallup poll, only 44% of adults are completely satisfied with their careers — conducting informational interviews now can help you become one of the happily employed.
Get real information from real people
Informational interviewing simply means talking to someone who works in a field that you’re interested in. Learning firsthand details about the hours, potential starting salary, and day-to-day tasks will give you an idea of whether your dream job is actually a dream. Junior year in high school is the perfect time to start — here’s how.
Create a list of things that interest you and then talk it over with your parents, teachers, and school counselors. Whether you have a specific career in mind or not, they can help make a connection to a career for you. For example, if you love shopping, have you considered a career in fashion merchandising?
Use tools like Career Outlook and Occupational Outlook Handbook to further explore the careers you discuss, and see if they seem like something you would pursue. CareerOneStop from the U.S. Department of Labor has links to self-assessment tests, career planners, and a job locator so you can find local companies to contact.
The easiest way to find people to interview is through personal connections. Your family, friends, teachers, and community leaders might help. If not, you can call or email companies, unions, trade organizations, and professional associations to inquire about setting up an informational interview. Ideally, you want to speak with an employee at entry level, or whichever position you would enter after college. After scheduling, remember to confirm the appointment, dress appropriately, arrive early, and act professionally.
Ask the right questions
The most helpful questions to ask at an informational interview will depend on the job. For example, you can ask a marine biologist how much time he or she spends with dolphins, but you wouldn’t ask the same of a filing clerk. Here’s a list of common questions to help you get started — tailor them to your specific field of interest:
- Why did you choose this career?
- Did you consider any other careers?
- What’s your typical day like from start to finish?
- Which college did you attend and what was your major?
- Which high school and college courses help you most in your daily tasks?
- Is there anything that you wish you’d known before entering this field?
- Is the job stressful or challenging in a fun way?
- Do you have time for a social life or do you take a lot of work home with you?
- Are you free to live in any city or is the job location-specific?
- Is this job what you thought it would be when you first started?
- Would you recommend this career to your own loved ones?
If you like what you hear, think about lining up some summer internships or maybe even a part-time job. If you still aren’t sure, keep researching and interviewing until you find the right career for you.