Since January, I have been on co-op in Washington, D.C. at a large public relations agency. As I got settled into my new co-op, I decided that with only a few months in our nation’s capital, I needed to make the most of my time. One way I have tried to do that is through informational interviews.
I had always heard about informational interviews in co-op classes or at PRSSA meetings but wasn’t sure where to start.
I decided to start out by making it a point to meet with Northeastern alums and senior staff at my office who specialized in my areas of interest. This is easy to do at any of your co-op offices. People are typically flattered when asked to sit down for a cup of coffee to consult on your career, so don’t be scared to email as many people as you can find. The worst that can happen is that they say no or don’t respond.
Other resources you can use to find people are LinkedIn, Northeastern Alumni organizations or contacts from your friends and classmates. One of the first informational interviews I did in D.C. was with an office whose co-op job offer I had declined! I explained that I had turned it down because it was unpaid and not because I had anything against the organization and asked to set up an informational interview while I was in D.C. My point is, don’t be afraid to ask!
Once you have secured an informational interview, make sure you prepare just as you would for a co-op/job interview. Do some research on the person’s company, have questions prepared and bring a copy of your resume!
Some questions to get the conversation started:
- Advice for someone starting out in the business?
- How did you get to where you are?
- Bounce off ideas for where you think you want to co-op/intern and even what clubs/organizations to join at school
- What is a typical day like at your job?
- How did you get your current / first job?
- Do you have any advice for someone starting out in this industry?
One of the best pieces of advice I have found for informational interviews was from the Northeastern University Career Services Informational Interviewing Guide. (A GREAT resource for tips and sample emails) The guide suggests that you should always ask the person you are speaking with if they could recommend anyone else that you should speak with for more advice? During my time in D.C. this question alone has led to three informational interviews!
After the interview always remember to send a thank you, just as you would with any co-op interview.
Make sure to keep some sort of address book or spreadsheet of the contacts you have acquired through co-op, informational interviews and speakers at PRSSA. This will help you find contact information when you need it!
When trying to follow-up and keep in touch with these contacts you have made, don’t just go to people when you need a job or co-op season rolls around. Keep your network up to date about what you are doing in school/co-op with a short note every couple of months. As long as you stay on the radar of your new contacts, they are more likely to think of you if they hear about open positions!
Informational interviews over the past four months have helped expand my network and give me better insight into the job market I will soon be entering!
So go out there, send some emails and get interviewing! If you have any questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Vice President, Fall 2010