An informational interview - a 15-20 minute one-to-one meeting with a contact - is a great way to find out more about a career. They can give you an insight into the industry, position, organisation or career you are interested in and will help you gain valuable insight and information that can help you plot out a career path that’s suitable for your skills, experience and interests.
It's almost a test-drive run before you take the plunge and start on your new career journey. You might find that the career is right up your street, but if it isn't all you have to do is go back to the drawing board and explore something new. You've not yet spent any money - all you've done is taken a bit of time to speak to the right people.
But what should you ask if you want to find out more about a career? Here are a few questions you can ask to help you on your quest to find the perfect career!
1. What does your day-to-day look like?
By asking this question, you’ll discover what tasks they perform every day, every week and every month, who they work with on a day-to-day basis, and whether they work to tight deadlines, or with projects that are more ongoing.
You’ll get a better understanding of whether you’d enjoy coming into the office and getting on the with grind!
2. What do you enjoy most about your work?
You might find out about aspects of the job you just hadn’t thought about by asking this question.
And their answer will give you some indication of whether it’s for you - if their answers tie up with what you are looking for, it’s a more than ideal career!
3. What do you dislike about your job?
As this is not an actual interview and there is no job involved at the end, you can find out more about the negative aspects of the job.
There will always be some elements of a career that are less enjoyable, however, if there are enough positive aspects to tip you over the line then it’s an ideal career for you.
4. What are some recent projects you’ve been working on?
This question, again, will give you an idea of what the day-to-day is like and whether you’d enjoy it.
5. What do you think the future of the industry/career will be?
With this question, you can gain a better understanding of whether there will be opportunities in the future, how it will evolve over time, and what you need to do to stay relevant.
6. What are the different career paths your colleagues have taken to enter the industry/career?
You can see whether your career path is in line with the others, and find out a little bit more about what skills and experience others have with this question.
You can get a better understanding of how the degree you achieved fits in with others and whether it’s a good basis for the career.
7. How did you end up in this career?
This might be helpful in giving you some ideas about the skills you need to develop to enter the career and you can discover whether he or she was coming into the career in the same direction as you.
8. If you had your career all over again what would you do differently? Would you choose a different career path altogether?
An eye-opening question that would offer you the chance to see what they really thought of their career. Don’t take their word for it though, if they don’t enjoy the work it might be completely up your street!
See Also: How to make the most of an informational interview
9. What career paths are available with more experience?
By asking this question you can get a better understanding of the routes that you can take as you get more experienced. There might be a number that take your fancy and you want to find out more about when you get into the industry.
10. How does your job fit within the company and/or industry?
It’s good to get an understanding of where the role fits into the grand scheme of a business, and how it influences how the rest of the company works. This will give you a head start when it comes to starting work as you have a better understanding of the outcomes that need to be met overall.
11. Are there any current trends or issues in the industry/career that I should be researching?
Once again, understanding how the industry is going to change will stand you in good stead when it comes to being at the top of your career in the long run.
12. What skills and personal attributes are useful for the role?
In asking this, you can find out whether you are a good match.
13. What steps would you recommend to take for me to enter this career?
This question will help you better understand what you need to do to get closer to a position within the industry and whether it’s viable for you in the short term.
14. Are there any trade journals, magazines or professional associations that you think would be beneficial for me to investigate?
Joining a professional association or reading up on the industry via trade magazines can be a great way to enhance your professional development and give you a talking point in interviews.
15. Is there anyone else you think I should speak to in finding out more about this career?
It would be great if they could point you in the direction of someone who is also willing to talk about their career and give you some insight into whether it’s the correct career choice for you.
16. What would you do anything differently to get to where you are now, what would it be?
Asking this question is an easy way to learn from their mistakes before you make the same yourself, and benefit from their hindsight!
Top photo by Any Hirschi via free Unsplash License.