Who can share their knowledge and experiences with me?
There are two options to take advantage of when you want more information from people.
One is peer supporters, who can share their personal experiences with recovery, vocational recovery, work in general, and particular experiences with work. Peer support is available in many places around the country, and one good national resource is the International Association of Peer Supporters (iNAPS).
Alternatively, we may find it helpful to find out about what it’s been like for other people to choose a job, training program, or career. We may want to hear more about a person’s experience with a particular employer or workplace. We may want to get in the door and talk with an employer directly, to find out more about the company or organization, and to provide an initial meeting. One way to do this is to conduct an Informational Interview. While some people use this as a strategy for Getting into jobs, we can also use it to help us to choose the kind of job we want to do.
For whatever reason you conduct an informational interview, doing some of these steps may help you to feel more confident, prepared, and set up for success.
Decide on who to interview. Figure out who may have good information to share with you. This could be someone you know now, or someone you don’t know. Pick someone who has good information that you need – maybe the person works in the kind of job you’re interested in. Or maybe the person supervises people who do that job. Ask the person if they would talk with you for 15-20 minutes about what they do, in order to help you with your career decision-making.
Prepare for your informational interview by:
- Doing your homework ahead of time – look up the company and the person, make sure you know a few things about them so that you know what to ask, and you have some sense of the place and their mission.
- Preparing the questions you want to ask. Think about what you want to know, and what questions they may be able to answer.
- Think about how you want to describe yourself and what you are doing. People generally like to talk about themselves and what they do for work, but you want to help the person get comfortable with you and what you want from them.
- Prepare to pay attention. Decide if you will take notes, or if you will focus on listening. Show the interviewee (remember, you are the interviewer!) that you are listening by summarizing what they say.
Here are some links to more information about informational interviews:
Informational interviewing provides a potential job seeker with insight into a specific field, career, or company. Here, BU career services offers tips on all stages of the process.
The Career Planning Curriculum has a section on conducting Informational Interviews, and is generally used in classrooms and groups. The Vocational Empowerment Photovoice curriculum is a curriculum also for use in groups, led by peer supporters, that includes a session on Informational Interviewing.