Want to know about a career? Just ask!
An informational interview is an interview where you ask another person about their career and career path. This is not an interview for a job. It’s a conversation where you learn the ins and outs of a career and get real-world insight on what to expect. Learn about the day-to-day tasks of a job, the best methods for getting your foot in the door and advancing, and the pros and cons of the career you’re interested in.

Informational interviews can open your eyes to career options you hadn’t considered or even help you realize which careers you’re definitely not interested in. It’s one of the best ways to explore careers.
Interview people in occupations and careers you’re interested in. Supervisors and people with a lot of experience will give you a long-term perspective and advice on how to be successful in the long-run. Younger people who are just starting out in their career will give you relatable advice on how to jump-start your career and get your foot in the door. Think about family, friends, teachers, school counselors, and mentors that can introduce you to people you can interview.
  1. Keep the informational interview to 20 or 30 minutes and be on time.
  2. Prepare a list of questions to take to the interview.
  3. Dress appropriately, like you would for a job interview.
  4. Always follow up with the person within 24 hours of the interview to thank him/her.
  5. Stay in contact with the person you interviewed. This is a great networking opportunity!
Start building your network today!
Networking involves building personal relationships with the people you meet every day and keeping in touch with them over time. Whether it’s your neighbor, teacher, or coach, these people are invaluable sources of information for job postings, recommendations, references, and career advice. You shouldn’t wait until you are looking for a job to begin networking.
  1. Where to Network
    You can network just about anywhere. Network with others when joining a school group, participating in extracurricular activities, or volunteering. Generally, any occasion where you’re around other people is an opportunity to strike up a conversation. Attending career fairs, setting up informational interviews, meeting with a friend’s parent, or even talking to the person sitting next to you on a plane are all great opportunities to have a one-on-one conversation with a person who can help with your career goals.
  2. Do your Research.
    When you attend a networking event, such as a career fair, research the companies that will be there. Educate yourself on what they do. If you are setting up an informational interview, go prepared with a list of questions about that person’s career and job path. Be enthusiastic and engaging when you meet with the person you interview. People are more willing to help someone who is energetic and proactive.
  3. Be Visible and Interested.
    Simply joining a professional society or attending a career fair will not make a difference if you aren’t having conversations with other people. It can be intimidating to start a conversation with people you don’t know, but people love to talk about themselves. Even if a person isn’t in your particular career of interest, he or she may know someone who is.
Know when and how to use social networks.
Social networking, the right way, can increase your exposure to career opportunities. Currently, LinkedIn is the most popular professional networking site and can be a great resource for finding personal contacts within companies and for companies to find you. There are other more popular social networking sites, but keep in mind that company recruiters and human resource managers use the internet to research applicants. Many candidates have been rejected due to information the hiring manager found on social sites—anything from the self-image that you project to information that conflicts with the information on your résumé. Remember to keep your online image appropriate to the job you want to have.
  1. Follow companies, professional groups, and career services that are in your career fields of interest.
  2. Use social media to connect with people you know in the profession, perhaps the people from your informational interviews.
  3. Connect with everyone you know—friends, family, teachers, coaches, religious and group leaders—and ask them to keep an eye out for jobs and career opportunities.
  4. Update your profile regularly with relevant industry and job-related information. Interact with individuals in your circle by engaging in group discussions and message boards. Post links to news and articles relevant to your career field.
  5. Remember to keep your online image appropriate. Nothing online is ever completely private, so don’t post something that may prevent you from getting a job in the future. Keep in mind that your friends’ posts about you may affect your image and, eventually, your job hunt. Ask your friends not to tag you if you think a post would make you look bad to an employer or professional contact.
Give to others while you gain experience.
Volunteering is a great way to learn valuable skills while helping others. Volunteering helps you gain experience, keep busy, engage yourself in the community, meet new people, build your résumé, and try out new careers.

Volunteering is a way to sample the career you are interested in. For example, if you are thinking of a career in veterinary work, volunteer at your local animal shelter. If you do end up going into the field, the skills you learn while volunteering will boost your résumé above other competing applicants. Likewise, you could also find out that you don’t really enjoy that particular field.

Volunteering can also help you network with others and make new friends. Spending time with people who share your passion about your community or cause is a great way to make new contacts that will be useful in the job search and throughout your career. The people you volunteer with and the organization you volunteer for can be used as professional references to attest to your abilities. And if you are unemployed or between jobs, volunteering is a great way to account for any gaps in your employment history. It shows you are interested in helping your community and illustrates to future employers a good work ethic.
Thinking of getting an internship? Stop thinking and start looking!
An internship is an opportunity to gain experience in a specific career or industry by working for a company or organization for a fixed, limited period of time. Getting real-world experience through an internship will give you a competitive edge when applying for college or jobs. An internship will also help you narrow down the list of careers you’re interested in and give you critical networking resources.

Internships can be paid or unpaid. When you intern, make sure you listen, observe, and participate in as many projects as possible. Ask questions and use the internship as a first-step in building your professional path. Take it seriously—the company/organization and people will be good references for you in the future if you make a good impression.
  1. Gain Experience: Many skills are best learned on the job, and an internship will give you a head-start on developing those skills.
  2. Learn About Professional Settings: The professional environment is very different than the school environment. Find out how to interact and engage in ways that will ensure your success in the world of work.
  3. Get Insight: Test the waters in a career to see if it’s right for you before you invest in more education or find a full-time job.
  4. Expand Your Network: Make positive connections with people and start to build the professional network that will be invaluable throughout your career.
  5. Find Employment Opportunities: Many companies look to their interns when hiring for permanent positions.
Want to know about a career? Follow me!
Job shadowing is a lot like informational interviews. But instead of asking someone what a job or career is like, you get to observe it firsthand by following someone through his/her work day. Your job-shadow experience can be a few hours long or last up to several weeks. It all depends on the situation and the person you shadow. Like an informational interview, you will get to learn about the day-to-day tasks and ins and outs of a specific field. You also get an insider’s view of a company’s or organization’s culture.

A job-shadowing experience can come from an informational interview. You also might find out about shadowing opportunities through your school counselor, teachers, or friends and family. Some groups have formal job-shadowing programs. Think about people in your network that can help set up a job-shadowing experience.
  1. Remember that the person you shadow is going out of his/her way to include you in a busy work schedule, so be respectful and appreciative.
  2. Learn as much about the company or organization as you can before you shadow an employee. (Researching their website is a great place to start.)
  3. Dress the same as you would for an interview and be on time.
  4. Observe as much as you can, not just about the person’s tasks, but also about the company culture. Take notes!
  5. Always follow up with the company or organization and the person you shadowed within 24 hours of the interview to thank him/her.
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