The Informational Interview

world-connect-people-community-internationalSometimes you really have to push yourself when it comes to setting up informational interviews. Though most people are happy enough to talk about themselves and their own unique career path, there is something about sharing these thoughts with a complete stranger that can be a little out of the comfort zone. Add in a busy schedule and the “what’s in it for me” element and it can be challenging to connect with those individuals who you have identified as sources of wisdom.

For the person on the other end, there is, of course, the pressure to ask the right questions. Personally, I make a point to develop an initial list of targeted questions after a careful scan of the individual’s LinkedIn page, though usually the conversation takes form more naturally.

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to speak with the talented colleague of a previous colleague, and I came away from our conversation feeling encouraged by his story. His career path had a few turns as do most. But it was his positive philosophy that colored some new thoughts on my own career journey. Some years ago, he was in a situation where his department was significantly downsized and the workload for the remaining workers increased considerably. Though many individuals would see this as a disadvantage, he saw it as a major opportunity to take on new skill sets and learn the workings of different functions. The ability to change a negative into a positive seems to be a common trait in leaders like this that successfully manage cross functional teams.

Informational interviews are valuable for any generation, especially millennials. They’re more than just a networking tool. They have the power to inform, advise, and in some cases, even inspire the interviewer with creative ideas that they had not previously considered. A recent article from Fortune Magazine brings up pertinent points on some good practices to follow. I would encourage professionals to make plans to conduct an interview with someone at least two levels higher than you often. Go out on the proverbial limb and you just might see a few branches above you.

What do you find to be the most challenging or rewarding aspects of informational interviews?