Better Than an Informational Interview

A far more valid way to obtain information on a career.

Posted Oct 23, 2020

No author listed, Pikist, Public Domain
Source: No author listed, Pikist, Public Domain

It’s long been recommended that career searchers do informational interviews, that is, ask a person or two what the career is really like.

In my clients’ experience, there is a far better way. Here’s why. Even if you manage to get to talk with a couple of people (often not easy), you’re getting just two people's opinions, a too-small sample. They may love the career or hate it, or have an anomalous situation or a specialty of little interest to you. Yet because you’ve spoken with them, it’s tempting to give their testimony excessive weight in choosing a career.

Far more valid in our digital age is to use the internet: It’s an easier, faster way to obtain a decent sample of input. You well may learn more about a career in an hour or two of smart internet searching than in more protracted efforts to obtain and participate in informational interviews. While the approach may vary a bit depending on the career, here are sources of career information likely to be useful in a wide range of careers:

Google search. We tend to underestimate Google search because it's free and so readily available. But remember that a Google search instantly curates millions of sites to identify the likely most useful ones. The key, of course, is to use good search terms. Some often useful ones: [insert name of the career, careers], [insert name of career “day in the life”] and [insert name of career and “career information”]. To cut the chance of going down unfruitful alleys, just scan the first few search results, pick an intriguing one, and as you're reading it, deciding whether to skim it, read it carefully, or go to another search result.

Professional associations. This refers to a field’s membership organization. To find an appropriate one(s), Google (name of career organization), (name of career association}, and less likely but still worth trying, (name of career, society).

Professional forums. LinkedIn has more than two million forums, which it calls “groups.” To find on-target ones, click on “My Network,“ “Groups,” and then “Discover.”

Government career sites. These sites offer text and often video on myriad careers: CareerOneStop.org and MyNextMove.org.

The takeaway

The information interview is obsolete: hard to get, providing information based on too small a sample and, contrary to many job seekers’ hopes, too unlikely to result in a job lead.

Gathering information on a career(s) using today’s digital resources is far more likely to help you choose a career at which you’ll be happy and successful, plus get you tips on training, niches, etc. There’s a time for the personal, but this usually isn’t it. Go digital.

I read this aloud on YouTube.