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5 Questions to Ask Your Future Employer

 

 

When faced with an overwhelming task like figuring out a career path, you may ask: “Where should I even begin?” An average person spends about 96,000 hours at work in a lifetime, so it’s important to be in a place you’ll truly enjoy and to be around people who inspire you. Making career decisions is important, but we seldom spend time investigating career paths we’re curious about.

 

We often make assumptions or rely on TV trends or opinions of friends and family. A more effective approach is to go directly to the source, ask people who are actually employed in the fields you’re interested in.

 

One way to get clarity about a profession is to conduct an Informational Interview. This technique will help you gain a deeper understanding about selecting or changing your career path. Informational interviews give you the “look and feel” of a certain profession.  

 

What is the process I should follow?

 

  1. Specify your areas of interest

  2. Follow companies you like on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube

  3. Attend “open days”

  4. Connect with professionals in your field of interest

  5. Identify your questions regarding this profession

  6. Ask a company representative for 10-15 minutes of their time (meet them for coffee)

  7. Attend the meeting, ask questions you can’t research online!

  8. Write a thank you note!

  9. Follow the advice of your interviewee

  10. Continue  your research! Don’t stop with just one interview!

 

How do I identify my interests?

 

Before you conduct an information interview, it’s helpful to have some sense of your interests.  The people you interview will probably want to learn about who you are and what you are looking to contribute.  But what if your  interests aren’t clear?  Find out what makes you curious!  On your search, read articles and books about things that intrigue you.  Put aside your ideas about prestige and what others may or may not expect from you.  Explore and research fields online.  Take note of what genres you gravitate towards in bookstores.  Pay attention to the patterns of what you read (or follow on Facebook), because a consistent pattern may mean you’ve found a topic that you are passionate about.  Once you have an inkling of what strikes a chord in you, you are on the right track!  

 

How do I Present Myself?

 

Once you’ve defined some of your interests, be prepared to talk about your background during informational interviews.  Having perfect clarity about your interests is not usually necessary, but the ability to express yourself is!  Be ready with a 3-sentence “elevator speech” to talk about yourself, your past accomplishments, and what you’d like to learn in the future.  A little preparation can make a big impression!

 

So Who Can I Talk To?

 

Start with family and friends and branch out from there. The possibilities are endless!  Some of the ways you can find people to interview include:

 

  1. People you already know, including family, friends, teachers, professors, etc.

  2. Introduction to someone by a mutual acquaintance.

  3. An organization’s website.

  4. A magazine, newspaper, or book.

  5. Social Media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

  6. Professional or Trade Association.

  7. Alumni from your school.

  8. Someone you met on an airplane, in a store, at an event, etc.

 

How Should I Arrange to Meet Someone For An Information Interview?

 

Be polite and genuine about your interests.In general, people enjoy talking about their careers and are usually happy to give you a bit of their time! When you ask for an information interview, people may prefer to talk with you via email, skype, or phone.  It is often effective to start with a short email introduction and to ask which medium the person would prefer to use.  In your introduction, you should mention:

 

1.     How you found this person’s name and contact information.

2.     Emphasize that you are seeking advice and information, not a job.

3.     Ask for a 20-30 minute appointment and honor that time frame.

 

Respect the interviewee’s time.  If you ask to speak for a certain amount of time, honor the time limit.

 

What Should I Wear!?

 

Dress for the job you want, but don’t overdo it. Look professional and clean. It’s important to be yourself, but try to put care into your appearance.

 

What Questions Should I Ask?

 

You’re chasing your dream, remember? Be prepared to learn how to do it! Your objective is to learn as much as you can about the person you will be interviewing and the organization they are affiliated with. Specific questions regarding your interviewees work and the organization will demonstrate that you’ve done your homework.  Finally, take notes on your discussion so that you can come back to what you’ve learned if you need to in the future!

 

1.     Can you tell me how you entered into your current position?

2.     How do people break into this field?

3.     What is a typical day like for you? Week? Month? Year?

4.     What are the greatest rewards and challenges you encounter?

5.     What do you like most about what you do, and what would you change if you could?

6.     What does a typical career path look like in your industry?

7.     Is there a typical salary range in this field?

8.     What skills are most useful in your position/organization (including technological skills)?

9.     What kind of work and internship experience do you look for when hiring candidates? How do people find out about hiring opportunities in this industry?

10.  “Does my resume show a person suited for this field?  If not, what is it lacking, and can I correct it, or should I be looking elsewhere?” (Maria Pinto Carland, Careers In International Affairs).  

11.     What are changes you’ve seen occur in your industry over time?  What changes do you think will occur in the next few years?

12.  What advice would you give to your younger self if you could go back in time?

13. What do you read—in print and online—to keep up with developments in your field?

14. Are there any professional associations for this industry that I should connect with?

15.  Are there other people you would recommend talking with to learn more about this field?  

16. Are there other organizations in this field that I should research?

 

How Do I Wrap Up the Interview?

 

Be polite, and keep in touch. Ask the person if you can contact them in the future with further questions and thank them for their time.  

 

Is There Anything Else I Should Do?

 

Following-up after an informational interview demonstrates that you’ve put in the extra effort to thank someone for sharing their time and insights with you.  It’s likely that the person you speak with won’t forget your gesture of gratitude and your attention to detail!

 

Get out there!

 

A job may seem prestigious, fancy, or cool on TV, but what is it really like?  An Informational Interview is a tool that can help you answer these questions. Avoid making decisions based on stereotypes strive to reveal the realities of a profession that you’ve always dream of.

 

 

By Emily Kolm

 

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