| By Nora Fogarty |
First of all, congratulations! You survived an informational interview, and you’re just that much closer to setting up connections that might someday serve you well in finding a job you love and find fulfilling. The question is, what do you do now?
The most important thing to do after your informational interview is to send a thank-you note. Don’t think you can get away with scrawling a few meaningless phrases inside that metallic cupcake-printed stationary your mom bought you for birthday present follow-ups when you were twelve, either. An informational interview follow-up letter is a business letter, first and foremost. While you can choose to handwrite it, it’s also fine to use a typed format. See our thank-you notes page for more information.
After sending your thank-you note, take a minute or two to think critically about where you want to go from here. Ask yourself these questions, or others like them:
What did I learn from this interview? Were the answers to my questions what I expected, or was I surprised by anything I learned?
Assuming you went into the interview with a set list of questions to ask, or at least a plan to stick to, think back on how those questions were answered, whether directly or at length. Did your interviewee have anything surprising or revelatory in response to what you asked? You might find it helpful at this point to organize your thoughts on paper or on the computer. Try making a chart, with your prepared questions to one side, and the interviewee’s responses to the other. This can make it a lot easier to see any trends or differences between the two.
Am I still interested in this field or position? If so, why exactly do I find it appealing? If not, what don’t I like about it, and what should I rule out in the future to avoid these factors?
If you went into the interview thinking, “This is what I want to do!” and you came out feeling the same way, that’s great. Now try to list exactly why you are so excited about it. Maybe you felt like it was just the right path to take, prior to speaking to your interviewee, but now that you have more information, you can detail exactly why it’s perfect for you.
Alternately, you might have come out of the interview feeling more lost than before, or like you’ve overestimated your desire to enter that field or work in that company. This is okay, too! The purpose of an informational interview is to gather information, and it doesn’t mean you’ve wasted your time if you can rule out something you don’t want to do as a career, or if you realize that you need to do more research before you can decide. Try to articulate on paper exactly why the field or position seems potentially boring or distasteful. This list can help you in your quest for further informational interviews, and make it much easier to decide between two or more fields, someday.
What meaningful connections did I or can I draw from this interview? Would it be appropriate to contact this person again later, or did they suggest other individuals for me to talk to?
Oftentimes, when you’ve conducted an informational interview, the interviewee will be more than willing to talk to you again at a later date. This is a good contact to maintain, especially for networking purposes. If you interviewed a senior marketing executive, and you want to work in marketing someday, don’t lose their number! It goes the other way, as well – maybe you’ve decided you really don’t want to work in marketing, but this interviewee works closely with the writing and editing teams in their company, and that’s something you’re much more interested in. It’s always a good idea to preserve these relationships so that if someday you need a job or a leg up, you know someone you can call to ask for information or for a contact. The Career Center has an informational interview tracking sheet to help you keep contact information organized.
If your interviewee suggested other people for you to talk to or other avenues to investigate, don’t disregard those kernels of information, either. Consider putting together a file of helpful insights, websites, employees, and employers.
An informational interview is a powerful tool in your toolkit. Just see this Mashable article for a quick explanation why, or check out our other blog posts with the “informational interviews” tag. What you do afterwards, however, is just as important. Don’t let great opportunities pass you by – think critically and carefully about what you’ve learned in your interview, and how you can apply or utilize it in the future.
For more information about informational interviews, check out the Career Center’s resources on the subject, available on our website, or stop by our office in the lower level of Orrico Hall during Express Advising. We’d love to see you!