Informational interviews

Over the years, I’ve received a lot of requests from students and recent grads for job shadowing. And, I always counteroffer with an informational interview. 

Now that we’re entering Month 10 of COVID-19 and the new norm of work-from-home, informational interviews are more important than ever. 

Here’s the thing …

Sleeping dog

There are many moments of my job that are not exciting to watch. I might spend my entire morning responding to emails, proofreading and editing, researching media and pulling clips. My afternoons are often dominated by Zoom meetings and phone calls, as well as writing statements, press releases, social media content and proposals. 

Watching me work would likely be incredibly boring for anyone (just ask my dog, Kimber!). 

Here’s why you should ask for an informational interview:

An informational interview gives you the opportunity to learn about a professional’s career journey and their day-to-day responsibilities. It gives you the opportunity to learn about industries, workplace cultures and the skills you’ll need to succeed. 

Some professionals might only be able to dedicate 15-20 minutes of their time, while others might give the opportunity to pick their brain for a full hour. 

Informational interviews are usually most appropriate for students and young professionals. However, if you have an established relationship with a person, you can still reach out for advice. Even 10 years into my career, I still reach out to some of my mentors for career advice and insights (shout out to Anne and Kasey!). 

How to ask for an informational interview:

Be sure to personalize your message with a greeting and possibly a bit about how you know the person (“I’ve been reading your blog,” for example).

Here are a few ways to ask for an informational interview within your email message:

  • “I’m graduating in 2021 and I wanted to ask you for feedback on my resume and skill development. Do you have time for a phone call or Zoom in the next few weeks?”
  • “I recently heard you speak in my class and I’d love to learn more about how you’ve built your career in the healthcare industry. Would you be available for a quick call this week?”
  • “We met at a networking event before COVID-19 and I really enjoyed talking to you about public relations. I would love to talk to you to learn more about what it’s like to work in the financial services industry as a PR pro. If you have time, I’d also like to have your feedback on my resume.”
  • “I’m really interested in learning more about your professional experience working for General Motors. Would you have an hour available to chat on the phone, Skype or meet in person sometime this month?”
  • “It was great running into you today. Could we do a Zoom soon? I have a few career-related questions and I would love your input about how to position myself for a job in the nonprofit industry.”
  • “I’ve always wondered what it’s like to work at a PR agency. Would you be willing to talk to me about your experiences and the skills I would need to develop to build a career like yours?”

You’ll notice that I don’t even call out the meeting as an “informational interview.” Instead, I specify what kind of advice I’m seeking.

Be sure to give the person a few general times you have available. For example, you could say, “I’m typically available Monday and Wednesday mornings, as well as Tuesdays and Thursdays after 3 p.m.”

It might take several days for the professional to respond to your request. Follow up after a week has passed if you haven’t heard back. Additionally, don’t assume the professional can meet tomorrow or even that week. Often, people schedule their meetings weeks or sometimes a month or two in advance.

How to prepare for an informational interview:

Arrive to the video/phone call on time with a notepad and several good questions. It might be helpful to review the person’s LinkedIn page beforehand to better understand their personal career journey. 

You should allow the conversation to flow naturally, using your questions to ensure there isn’t awkward silence.

Here are a few questions to consider: 

  1. How did you get into this industry? 
  2. What does your day-to-day look like? 
  3. What advice do you have for building a career in this field and/or industry? 
  4. How can entry-level professionals make themselves stand out?
  5. What skills do you need to thrive in your job?
  6. What’s the hardest part about your job? 
  7. What do you look for in internship and/or job applications? 
  8. What mistakes do you see jobseekers making when they apply for jobs at your company? 
  9. What do you wish you’d known when you started your career? 
  10. Do you have any other professionals you could connect me to for me to learn more about the industry? 

After the informational interview:

Afterward, be sure to send a thank you note. Whether it’s hand-written or an email, it’s important to show gratitude for the professional’s willingness to take time out of their busy day to give you advice and insights about their career. 

It’s also important to follow through on any commitments you made. If the person asks you to send them your resume, be sure to send it within a day or two. If they offer to connect you to others, be sure to respond to the introduction as quickly as possible. 

I also love it when students and young professionals keep me updated on their journey, emailing me to tell me about how my advice helped them nab an interview or a new job. 

What are your tips for students and young professionals pursuing informational interviews?

Melanie Spring - Venturesome Podcast

Personal Branding & Storytelling with Melanie Spring, the Approachable Bad Ass

Melanie SpringMelanie Spring branded herself as the “approachable bad ass” following a survey she sent to hundreds of connections that sought feedback on how they perceived her.

Melanie is an internationally renowned keynote speaker and coach who helps people with public speaking, pitching and personal brand development

In this episode, I talked to Melanie about using feedback from others to build and strengthen your personal brand and how to tell your own story.  

Unforgettably fearless

Inspired by Melanie’s story, I asked my LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends and Twitter followers to describe me in one to five words via SurveyMonkey.

Words that were repeatedly used to describe me were:

  • Ambitious
  • Intelligent
  • Driven
  • Confident
  • Creative
  • Fearless
  • Tenacious
  • Mentor  

 

Some words related to roles I play on a team or in a group (advocate, leader, learner, mentor, risk-taker). Others described my personality traits (assertive, dedicated, inquisitive, loyal, opinionated, no-nonsense, outgoing, passionate, talkative, caring, compassionate). 

Many also described my work- and mentorship-styles (efficient, encouraging, goals, hard-working, innovative, organized, results, results, strategic) and how I use my voice or take action (authentic, bold, brave, fierce/fiery). The final bucket related to my mind and degrees (educated, smart, talented). 

My favorite word someone used to describe me: Unforgettable.

I think if I were to use these results to develop my own brand like Melanie, maybe I’d describe myself as unforgettably fearless. I strive to be fiercely brave, ambitious and curious. 

This was a fun exercise and one I definitely recommend. I used Survey Monkey and asked only: “What two to five words describe Rachel Esterline Perkins?” I shared it on social media a few times and tallied the words. I used wordclouds.com to visualize them together. If you decide to try this, I’d love to hear about what you learn! 

 “You’re welcome”

In this episode, Melanie talks about changing your attitude when you walk into the room to be more confident and unapologetically you. She also shares perspectives for embracing who you are if you feel like you’re “too much” or “not enough.” (This is for all of us who’ve been told we’re too bossy, too ambitious, etc.). And if you’re feeling awkward in this WFH world, check out her free training “ How to: Not Be Weird on Zoom.” 

The Smile File

Melanie encourages listeners to to capture their career success stories to use later on in interviews or when asking for a raise. I like to call this the “Smile File.” This was something my friend, Brooke, shared with me years ago and it’s where I save screenshots of emails congratulating on a job well done, positive feedback from clients or even sweet notes from former students. 

Everything you want is on the other side of no

Melanie talked about manifesting. But it’s not magic. She is about being clear and intentional about what you want, making a plan and then working toward that goal every single day. Melanie is currently offering her “Manifest Your Life” program for $20. 

Free resources for personal branding

I’m putting together some free resources on personal branding and storytelling. Sign up to be the first to receive the free workbook

Listen to Venturesome for the full conversation 

And because this is a new podcast, please take a moment to leave a review after the episode if you enjoyed this episode about your career in your twenties. 

If you just joined us, listen to our first two episodes Gone Girl: Questions To Ask Before Leaving Your Job with Beth Bryce of Daring Circle Ranch and The Rocket Years with Elizabeth Segran

I also want to personally thank Jacqueline, a listener who shared her feedback and inspired me to finally edit this episode. I was in a bit of a rut and knowing that there was someone out there who wanted to hear more helped motivate me to get this episode out. Thank you, Jacqueline! 

 

 

The Rocket Years: Your Career in Your Twenties with Elizabeth Segran

The Rocket Years with Elizabeth Segran

Elizabeth Segran, author of The Rocket Years: How Your Twenties Launch The Rest of Your LifeThe actions you take in your twenties — in your career, relationships, health and more — can set the trajectory for the rest of your life. 

Fast Company senior writer Elizabeth Segran describes your twenties as a rocket. If you adjust only a few degrees when you launch, it can completely change where you land. 

Elizabeth’s book, The Rocket Years: How Your Twenties Launch The Rest of Your Life*, reviews eight areas of your life you can focus on developing in your twenties to thrive in the rest of your life. These areas are: 

  1. Career
  2. Hobbies
  3. Fitness
  4. Marriage
  5. Family
  6. Friendship
  7. Politics
  8. Faith

In this episode, I talk to Elizabeth primarily about your career in your twenties, as well as hobbies and politics. However, all of these areas are important to your well-being, success and happiness. 

Setting the trajectory of your career in your twenties

Do dream jobs exist? Elizabeth makes a great point in her book about the high expectations we have for our careers: When your first start out, your career ambitions are theoretical. You don’t yet have the experience to know if you like a job in practice. Internships, jobs and hands-on experiences can serve as a roadmap for your future. 

When I graduated from college, I wanted to work at a PR agency. Yet, I didn’t really like my first job at an agency (and it took me months to admit it). The work, which focused on business-to-business communications and marketing, wasn’t satisfying or enjoyable. 

However, that first job helped set the trajectory for the first decade of my career and gave me a lot of valuable skills in writing, editing, emotional intelligence and project management. Looking back, many of my early career experiences helped get me where I am today. 

If you enjoyed that video, you can find more on the Rocket Years website

Adjusting your course as a twenty- or thirty-something

Elizabeth says in her book, “People who thrive simply refuse to accept situations that make them miserable: they choose to keep learning, growing, and working toward happiness all their lives.”

This is a really important point, especially in your twenties and thirties. Curiosity keeps you on the path of growth. If you’re not thriving in a job or a relationship, then adjust course. While change can be scary, it also can be empowering. 

You don’t have to make an abrupt change. If you’re not happy in a job, call up a trusted mentor who can talk you through the challenges you’re experiencing. They can give you fresh insights and advice. If you’re feeling burned out in your job, look at developing other areas such as hobbies, faith or friendships.   

Building momentum and advancing your career

As you build momentum in your career in your twenties and thirties, remember to have balance. Broadening your perspectives through a new hobby or your faith can help you be more creative and energized when you work. 

And while you’re advancing your career, remember to help those following in your footsteps. Mentorship is incredibly important to me. I often speak to classes at CMU and other universities and I serve as the professional advisor for MSU PRSSA. 

Explore where you’ve landed

Your twenties can’t be all work and no play. Elizabeth shares why areas like hobbies, fitness, faith and politics can be important areas of focus.

A few things I’ve tried in my twenties and thirties:

  • Watercolor painting. In the past year, I’ve taken up painting with the help of Let’s Make Art — which provides outlines and YouTube videos you can use for free (or you can order kits that come with the paints too, which is how I started). I honestly don’t feel like I’m very good at it. But, it’s also nice to have a creative outlet where I don’t have to be perfect. 
  • Dog agility. Years ago, I took an eight-week agility course with Scout, my German Shepherd. In addition to being a workout, it was a great activity to help me strengthen my relationship with my dog as well. I recently adopted a puppy from the shelter and spending time training her is an enjoyable outlet.
  • Barre. Fresh out of college, I took my first barre class. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d ever go back. It was incredibly hard. I kept at it though and it eventually became a favorite workout that I crave. 
  • Photography. I love capturing photos of animals and I’ve volunteered at local shelters and rescues to capture portraits to help make pets more adoptable. I also showed horses for over 10 years as a child and teen, so I occasionally take photos of horses for friends. I also love capturing Pure Michigan landscapes, such as lighthouses, lakes and sunsets. I’m always proud when I look at the canvases I’ve printed for my walls. 

I’d love to hear about your career, hobbies and side gigs. Email venturesomepodcast@gmail.com to share your story. 

Listen to Venturesome for the full conversation 

And because this is a new podcast, please take a moment to leave a review after the episode if you enjoyed this episode about your career in your twenties. 

If you just joined us, listen to our first episode “Gone Girl: Questions To Ask Before Leaving Your Job with Beth Bryce of Daring Circle Ranch.”

 

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 

Gone Girl: Questions To Ask Before Leaving Your Job with Beth Bryce, founder of Daring Circle Ranch

Gone Girl: Questions To Ask Before Leaving Your Job with Beth Bryce of Daring Circle Ranch

My first episode features Beth Bryce. Beth is a career strategist, transformation catalyst and founder of the Daring Circle Ranch

Beth helps people break out of toxic, unhealthy jobs and find the motivation and path to careers that bring them joy and passion. And she has coached thousands through career and life transitions. 

In this interview, Beth shares her own journey and shares her insights on when you should leave a “dream” when it no longer fits who you are — whether it’s a job or something else. 

Beth also offers a free e-book on her website on 50 ways you can spark your life revolution.

Is it time to leave your job? 

Beth walked us through five critical questions to ask yourself when you’re wondering if your current job is the right fit. In summary, she recommends asking:

  1. Does this job allow me to work with people I respect who share my values?
  2. Does this job provide opportunities for growth that stretch and challenge me?
  3. Does this job set me up to launch into future positions that advance my career?
  4. Does this job compensate me fairly? 
  5. Does this job fill my heart and feed my soul in meaningful ways?

How to answer the salary question

As part of our discussion, we talked money. When asked “What salary are you looking for?” Beth recommends this succinct answer delivered with a smile: 

“Based on my education, experience and skills, I am sure you will give me a fair offer. What is the range of the position?”

Listen to Venturesome for the full conversation 

And because this is a brand new podcast, please take a moment to leave a review after the episode. 

 

I’d rather take action and fail than to take no action at all. I’d rather be decisive and make the wrong decision than to procrastinate. I’d rather ask the question and receive a no than to stay silent.

Before we jump into our first season, I want to take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Rachel Esterline Perkins and I’m the host of the Venturesome Podcast. 

Through my experiences in the workplace and as a mentor, I’ve seen that we don’t talk enough about certain challenges and expectations in the workplace. While students and young professionals are graduating armed with theories and case studies, they rarely learn how to negotiate a salary or advocate for themselves at work. As professionals, we also don’t have enough candid conversations about imposter syndrome, burnout and bouncing back from big mistakes. 

I was recently speaking to a group of Central Michigan University students and was asked about how I push through uncertainty and the possibility of failure. Afterward I was thinking about it more. It’s not because I have no fear of failure. I experience imposter syndrome and anxiety like many other person. I’m not immune to criticism or negative thoughts. 

But I choose to move forward anyway. I’d rather take action and fail than to take no action at all. I’d rather be decisive and make the wrong decision than to procrastinate. I’d rather ask the question and receive a no than to stay silent. 

Being venturesome means being willing to take risks. It means taking the road that’s sometimes a little bit tougher to travel. 

Through this career podcast, I’ll share my experiences and the perspectives of my guests on strategies you can use to get a step ahead in your career. 

To give you some background, I’m a first generation college grad with a bachelor’s in public relations and a master’s in higher education administration. I started my career at a marketing agency and then spent six years in nonprofit and higher ed. I’m currently working in advocacy communications at an agency. 

Over the years I’ve hired and mentored over 30 interns and I’ve had countless conversations with students and other professionals who’ve asked for feedback and coaching to help them address conflicts in their current roles or to help them position themselves for their next jobs. 

Our conversations hit on three pillars: 

  1. Ambition
  2. Bravery
  3. Curiosity

These are the three pillars of this podcast. 

I will bring you guests who will inspire you to have the determination to succeed, to give you the strength to endure through uncertainty and failure, and to fuel your curiosity. 

Venturesome – A Career Podcast

I hope you’ll join me for episodes here and that you’ll check my website, venturesomepod.com, for blog posts and other resources. 

You also can find this career podcast on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and you can email me at venturesomepodcast@gmail.com.