Continue the research and investigation of possible career options that you began when exploring careers and majors, by going into the real-world environment of those careers.

Talk with and visit individuals who are working in the career fields that interest you. 

Through co-ops, internships, and other field-related experiences, identify and reflect on your assumptions about your career choice.

Informational Interview

Informational Interviewing is a form of professional networking that involves contacting a professional in your field of interest, to get answers to questions about that field and the careers associated with it.

What do they like about the field? What do they dislike?  What do they find rewarding and challenging?

Personal contact with a professional in your field of interest can be an effective way to learn about the industry, demonstrate your interest in the field, and develop valuable contacts.

Certain guidelines should be followed when reaching out to professionals in your field of interest.

Why conduct an Informational Interview?

  • It is a highly effective method of obtaining specific information
  • Your develop confidence in approaching others
  • It helps you target your job search by identifying specific career fields related to your skills and experiences
  • As a form of research, it yields information about the current job market for the field that interests you
  • You begin to build a network of professional contacts
  • Others will recognize and respond to your  proactive role in your job search

Getting Started

  1. Be clear about the purpose: to research potential career fields, not to get an interview or a job
  2. Make a list of all the people you know who are doing the type of work that interests you
  3. Locate and read written information related to the specific career field
  4. Contact the person ahead of time to schedule an appointment, on-site if possible
  5. State specifically that you are researching a particular career and would like to confirm your information with someone working in this area
    1. if referred to a second potential contact by the first contact, ask if you may use that first person’s name as a reference
    2. ask for 20 to 30 minutes of the person’s time and be sure to keep the appointment within the established time frame
  6. Prepare for your appointment.
    1. research the contact and their company
    2. tailor your questions to get the information you need
  7. Conduct the interview and write down the information you receive
  8. Follow-up by sending the person a thank you letter

Sources to Identify Networking Contacts

  • LinkedIn
  • Family & social contacts
  • Community service organizations (Rotary, Lions)
  • University faculty and staff, including academic and career advisors
  • Encyclopedia of Associations
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook
  • Business section of newspapers (Event Calendars, Who’s Who in the News)
  • Business journals within the community (Dayton Business Journal)

Sample Questions

About Job Function
  1. What are your duties and responsibilities?
  2. What was your undergraduate/graduate major?
  3. Describe a typical day.
  4. What do you like most about your job? Least about your job?
  5. What are your most recent successes on the job?
  6. How much time do you spend at work? What are your work hours during peak times?
  7. Can you leave your job behind after work, or is it the kind of job you take home with you?
  8. What type of people do you interact with?
  9. What parts of your job are most challenging?
  10. If you could do anything differently in your preparation for this career, what would it have been?
About the Organization
  1. What is the overall philosophy of management in this organization? How is it implemented?
  2. What are the short range goals of this organization? Long range?
  3. How are these goals measured? Formally/Informally? How often?
  4. Is there in-house training or opportunities for continuing development?
  5. Does this company utilize co-ops/interns? Could you suggest any temporary, part-time, or summer work experience that would help a person prepare for your occupation?
  6. Where or how are job openings communicated within the organization? the career field?
About the Field
  1. What is the typical career path in your field?
  2. What steps did you take to enter this career field?
  3. What training/skills are required for someone who wanted to enter this field now? What training/skills are recommended?
  4. What are the beginning, average, and top salaries in this occupation?
  5. What are the trends in this field? What are the trends within specific geographic locations?
  6. What changes have impacted your field in the last five years?
  7. Will there be a continued demand for this occupation? How secure will employment be in the future?
  8. What are the latest developments in your field?
  9. Are there any special problems, concerns, or challenges of which a person should be aware when considering this occupation?
  10. What other occupations are closely related to this one?
  11. What other advice or information can you give a person considering/preparing for this career?
  12. Can you recommend three suggestions to enhance my marketability for the career field, for location, and /or general employment?
Networking
  1. Are you willing to review my résumé and provide feedback?
  2. Can you give me the names of three other people who share your enthusiasm for this kind of work? How can I contact them? May I use your name when contacting them?
  3. May I stay in touch with you and let you know of my decision?

Do not directly ask for a job

  • Asking an employer directly if he or she can get you a job is often a turn-off!
  • Someone you have just met may not want to devote much time and energy to assisting with your job search.
  • If you take the time to get to know the professional and build a relationship based on mutual career interest, you will get better results.

Follow Up

Remember networking is a two way street, be a giver and a receiver.

  1. Leave your résumé with your contact, so they have access to your contact information and your qualifications when referral opportunities present themselves.
  1. Send a professional thank you letter.

Accepting assistance from professionals carries with it the responsibility to assist  in the same way when you are a professional.  Plan now, and commit, to mentoring others in their career exploration.

Job Shadow

Once you have made contact with professionals in your field of interest, ask for the opportunity to conduct a job shadow.  A job shadow involves spending a day or several days accompanying a professional as they conduct their daily business.

Some organizations have formal job shadowing programs.  Otherwise you will need to make arrangements on an individual basis.

  1. Use the Occupational Outlook Handbook and other career exploration resources to research the profession prior to the job shadow.
  2. Visit the professional's work site on the prearranged schedule, following for a day or longer.
  3. Observe and gather primary material for evaluation of the job and career.
  4. Record your observations and feelings.
  5. Compare what you see, hear, and feel about the job to objective assessments of your skills, interests, and personality type and to what you learned in researching the professional field.
  6. Always send a thank-you letter to the professional who allowed you to job shadow, and to anyone who assisted you in securing the job shadow.

Find interviews with professionals in a variety of fields at JobShadow.com

Get Experience

Get Experience Outside the Classroom

In your career decision-making, plan for activities outside the classroom that complement your academic activities.

Develop soft skills desired by employers, such as leadership, interpersonal skills and teamwork, through activities and employment

Some examples are:

  • Work on campus in a Student Employment position to gain work-related skills and find mentors for academic and work-related issues
  • Participate in the cooperative education or internship programs
  • Get involved in student and professional organizations
  • Identify and connect with mentors who can provide professional guidance and connections when seeking employment upon graduation.

Find opportunities through Student Employment ›

Find opportunities through Co-op and Internship Program ›

Keep a Record

Document and Evaluate Your Professional Development

Update your record on a regular basis as it will serve as the foundation for your next step, initiating and conducting your job search.

Identify the skills you develop and record situations that demonstrate your use of these skills.

Note your accomplishments, achievements and successes. 

Record the specific details:  how many people were involved, how much money something cost or raised, what measures were made of the quantifiable impact on the organization.  Know and demonstrate in quantifiable terms how your involvement affected the organization.

For example: Supervised 5 volunteers over 3 days in telephone fund raising campaign, yielding commitments of $30,000 - a 300% increase over previous campaigns.

Learn how to develop a professional résumé ›     

Review Progress

Review Your Progress and Make Adjustments

The career decision-making process is not always a linear or forward path.  At times, you will find it necessary to step back, reflect on your learning and your profile, evaluate your options and choices, and then adjust your path.

Career decision-making is a lifelong process.

Review the Step-by-Step Career Decision Making Process (PDF)