Informational Interview 101

This week I had the opportunity talk to some high school students about building their brand (What's up Cookie Cart kids!) and one of them asked me afterwards "what is an informational interview?". That is a great question and one that many adults are often too embarrassed to ask. So I'll pretend that I'm answering the question for the high schoolers and mid-career professionals can pretend like they are reading this post to brush up on something that they already know everything about and are doing consistently to advance in their career. Deal? So what is an informational interview?

An informational interview is  not a job interview. It is an interview to learn more about a job, career, industry or company.

Who should I ask for an informational interview?

People that you admire, someone who has a job that you would like in 5-10 years, or someone that works at a company that you would like to work at. You can find these people in industry blogs or newspapers, through alumni associations, or through referrals from people in your network.

Can you give me an example email to request an informational interview?

For students: Brad Owens, from Humphrey Institute Career Services suggested that I contact you.  As a graduate student studying nonprofit management I would like to learn more about my various career options after I graduate, he thought you might be able to provide me with useful information. If you are able to find time, I would like to meet with you in person or by phone for 20 minutes to ask you a few questions about your career path.

Thank you for considering my request. I look forward to your reply.

For people that are employed:

Amy Johnson, Executive Director of the Helping People Center shared your contact information with me. She is a big fan of yours and highly recommended that I reach out to you. I am currently a development officer at the Evergreen Health Society and am confidentially considering a move to the foundation field. Because you successfully transitioned from fundraising to a program officer position, I would like to talk with you  about your transition and if you have any specific advice about how I can better prepare myself for a job as a program officer. If you are able to find time, I would like to meet with you in person or by phone .

Thank you for considering my request. I look forward to your reply.

What should I ask in my informational interview?

Can you tell me about your career path?

What does your average day look like?

What degrees are needed in this field?

What do you think best prepared you for this position?

What do you like most about your job?

What is your least favorite part of the job?

What are the next steps for you in your career?

Are there people that you would recommend that I talk to to learn more?

Who do you admire in this field?

What sort of follow-up should I do?

Write a thank you note (handwritten is best) and if you get a job in the field at a later date, write them again to thank them for their great advice that helped you to break into the field.

Playing B-Ball with Obama: 6 Steps to Crossing Anything Off Your Bucket List

I am a big believer in "the bigger the goal, the more likely that you can accomplish it." There is a lot less competition for big, hairy audacious goals, everyone is too focused on achieving the mediocre. I read this amazing post at the Four Hour Work Week blog and it takes the idea of big goals to the next level. From Tim Ferriss:

If you want a lesson in boldness, and to cross things off of your bucket list, there is no better teacher than Ben Nemtin.

His story, and that of the entire Buried Life team, is amazing.

It started with a list of 100 things and a planned two-week roadtrip. Along the way, Ben has somehow managed to play basketball with Obama, throw the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game, delivery a baby (not his), make the biggest roulette spin in Vegas’ history, and much more.

Most recently, they crossed off #19: Write a bestselling book. Their debut, What Do You Want To Do Before You Die?, just hit #1 on The New York Times, which will be announced officially April 15th. To celebrate? They’re sending a copy of the book into space.

It all seems unbelievable, which is exactly why I love this guest post from Ben.

This original content covers his 6 steps for crossing anything off of your personal bucket list. There is a method. Everyone needs a kick in the ass sometimes, and this did it for me. Read the six steps here.

Always be ready for the mike

I went to a meeting this week and was running a little late. I knew it would be a lunch gathering about a project that I lead but didn't have a lot of other details. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for making it just on time when I slipped into my seat. I took a look at the program and was beyond surprised when I saw that I was the second speaker listed. A few years ago I would have broken into a stress sweat and hid in the bathroom waiting for them to go on without me. Instead I continued the great conversation I was having with my table mates and when they called my name I reminded myself to stick to 5 minutes and gave what I hope was an informative and friendly introduction to the program that I lead.

So the key to going from shock to ease in just a few minutes...preparation.  For programs that I may be asked to give an impromptu speech about, I have a 30 second, 5 minute, 15 minute, and thirty minute version that I am ready to do anytime. I also have speeches in the same lengths ready to talk about myself, my organization, my job, the Nonprofit Rockstar book and the future of philanthropy. It isn't as overwhelming as it sounds. I often use the Beyond Bullet Points method to script the outline and the version can get longer as I add details and stories to my key points.

Being a prepared public speaker sets you apart professionally and decreases your need to hid in the bathroom in fear exponetially.