Have you ever heard of an informational interview?
The purpose of an informational interview is you are reaching out to a professional to learn more about a specific field of interest, or their job and career. Fun fact, it’s actually because of an informational interview that I ended up becoming a college counselor at Insight! I was curious about college counseling, I reached out to a number of local organizations, and three years later I’m still here happily with Insight!
The first step is to think “what is my goal” – what exactly is it that you want to get from the person you’re reaching out to. Are you looking for an internship? Are you looking for more information about that field? It’s important to make the “ask” of your email to this person as specific as possible. If you just start emailing everyone that works in a tech company because you’re interested in that field, it’s less likely someone will take you up on your request. Rather, be specific about what you’re asking, and why you’re asking this specific person.
Secondly, write out a short and sweet email targeted to the person and/or area that you are reaching out to. In the email you want to include your name, if you have any background experience that is relevant, and ask for something! It’s one of those funny things, you may feel awkward asking for something, but people often enjoy being asked for something like this because it shows how much they have accomplished. Letting them know that you are aware of their work and achievements, and want to learn from them, is a pretty great thing to share.
Here is an example of an email template you should NOT follow:
I am interested in Geology. Please can you give me an internship?
The above email is impersonal and it shows little knowledge about the professor and why you are reaching out to them. Remember, before this contact with them, the recipient most likely doesn’t know who you are, which means they aren’t very likely to look at an email like that and say “Yes, ok, I will give this person an internship”.
Now, here is an email template that may be closer to what you will send:
“Dear Professor name,
I hope this email finds you well. My name is student name and I am very passionate about Geology. I am reaching out to you today because I have learned about your research into x area and am incredibly interested to learn more!
I particularly liked x part of research because it relates to a project I recently completed. My project was about project info here.
I would love to talk with you for 10 minutes to learn a little more about your research and my future in the Geology field. I want to be respectful of your time, so please let me know what works best for you.
Thank you very much for your time!
Once you have organized a time to speak with the target of your informational interview, make sure you come prepared with questions that can help you with your “ask”. Depending on who you are speaking with, this may be questions about research, what it was like to major in a specific subject, how they achieved something specific – whatever it may be, do your homework. Being prepared shows that you really value their time and will make a great impression. And remember, while talking on the phone can be a little daunting, making the effort to go further than an email will set you apart from others that stick to behind a computer screen communication only. If one of your end goals is to get an internship, or maybe even a job with this person, putting in the time to set yourself apart from the rest is vital.
Good luck with your informational interviews, enjoy yourself and enjoy learning more from the great people you get to speak with!
All the best,