What is a career conversation?
A Career Conversation, also called an Informational Interview, offers you the opportunity to meet with a professional contact that can help you learn about a field of interest, as well as add a potential new contact to your growing network. The focus of an informational interview is collecting information, not asking for a job.
What can I learn from a career conversation?
Participating actively in informational interviewing will allow you to gain a wealth of information about organizations, work environments, and career opportunities. You will gather up-to-date, first-hand information on day-to-day tasks and workplace cultures. Reflecting on your career conversations can help you determine if an occupation or industry is a good fit.
Identifying professionals to interview
Assess your network. Whom do you know within your field of interest? Consider previous internships and jobs, as well as your experiences as a consumer. What businesses and organizations are you familiar with? Can you identify contacts within those?
Ask for contact recommendations from friends, family, faculty, staff, classmates, neighbors, and alumni, and request introductions. Mutual connections can break the ice and expand your network.
Consider Kalamazoo College faculty and staff that have worked in fields of interest.
Browse for potential networking contacts on LinkedIn, including in the LinkedIn Alumni Tool (https://www.linkedin.com/school/kalamazoo-college/people/).
Setting up a Career Conversation
Send an email or LinkedIn message to the professional of interest. See template in Learning from and Connecting with Alumni. Invite the individual for a cup of coffee or set up a virtual meeting over the phone or Zoom.
Confirm the date, time and location. Secure contact information and check with the professional 24 hours in advance to re-confirm meeting.
Whether you are participating in our official “Hornet Huddles” program, or you are simply meeting a professional contact for a career conversation, check out the article The Right Way to Approach Informational Interviewing.
Before the Meeting
- Read their LinkedIn profile and/or bio
- Prepare a list of questions (these can elaborate on things you found in their bio)
- Make sure you can arrive on time, possibly a couple of minutes early
- Be mindful of your appearance if you are in-person or over video. You don’t have to wear a suit, but you probably don’t want to be in sweatpants (okay… maybe they won’t actually know if you are in sweatpants on a video screen…)
During the Meeting
- Thank them for their time
- Keep notes of what you are learning, what next steps you plan to take, etc.
- Keep track of time and if you are going over, ask if they have another meeting to get to
- Ask if you may contact them again in the future with other questions
- Ask if there are others in their field you might meet to gain additional perspectives
After the Meeting
- Send them a quick thank you email
- Set a reminder for yourself to keep in touch with this person— even if it has been 6 months or a year, they might love to hear about your outcomes, see if you followed their advice, etc. This person could be an important part of your network in the future— you never know!