Informational Interview Questions

Yesterday, I posted about something you can and should do when exploring a new career: an informational interview. But that post only covered how to schedule the interview. You still need to know what to ask during an informational interview. So let’s get started.

Why do an Informational Interview?

This is a low-stakes way for you to

  • meet someone in a different career,
  • explore how they got into that work, and
  • get a snapshot of a typical workday.

In other words, the point of an informational interview is to give you more data points on whether it might be a career that suits you and warrants more exploration.

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Resources for Career Brainstorming

It’s Monday, so I’m guessing you’re as braindead as I am. But when you’re job hunting or career planning, you still need to be working on your career, even when you don’t feel like it. So it’s a good day to take on something easy, like brainstorming. Brainstorming is a good way to make use of your time on days when you’re feeling sluggish or caffeine-dependent.  Like, say, Mondays.

How Brainstorming Can Benefit Your Career

Career brainstorming can help you no matter what career stage you’re in. When you’re looking for your first job or considering a career change, brainstorming can uncover new job families to explore. And when you’re in a career but feeling stuck at your current level, it can help you find professional development options you might need to consider in order to advance. Or when you’ve found a job you’d like to apply for, it can help you figure out how to identify and describe your transferable skills on your resume.

Let’s take a look at some of my favorite career brainstorming tools.

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Beware Career Guidance that Doesn’t Suit You

I was talking with ranting to my husband last night about this recent report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce: Women Can’t Win: Despite Making Educational Gains and Pursuing High-Wage Majors, Women Still Earn Less than Men.

It is absolutely maddening that women with advanced degrees continue to earn less than men with only a Bachelor’s degree, particularly since women outnumber men in many fields. The report points out a number of factors at play, most of which I’m betting you can guess. Women are concentrated in lower-paying fields, such as teaching. But women who pursue higher-paying professions (e.g., engineering) are more likely than men to go into lower-paying areas within those professions (e.g., environmental engineering as opposed to petroleum engineering).

There’s this incredibly depressing finding from the report:

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Build your network from connections

There’s not much that I dread more than networking events. So many of us (yes, even me) hate networking. Trying to strike up a conversation, nevermind build meaningful connections with strangers, can feel awkward at best, and at worst, forced and insincere. And for academics in particular, it can feel sales-pitchy, gross, and off putting.

Yet there are real, tangible benefits to networking. Conversations with work friends can lead to opportunities. You might hear about an upcoming job opening before it gets posted. You’re more likely to find out the inside scoop about an employer. Your connections might approach you to speak on your area of expertise, giving you the chance to promote your skills and knowledge. Or when you’re a candidate for a job, you might know someone who can put in a good word for you (in addition to your professional references).

Networking isn’t just about sharing business cards or building up your LinkedIn connections, though. For your network to be effective, you need to have or build relationships with your associates. You don’t want your connections to decline to connect, grow stale, or drop you because it’s a one-way connection. Making your network work for you means meeting people organically, and then thinking of your associates as real, genuine relationships. People who are not just looking out for you, but who are invested in keeping a relationship with you. So how can you do this? There’s two easy steps.

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Thoughts on credentials

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about credentials. For the first few years after I started working full-time in a new field, I was relishing *just* working. I finally had some semblance of work-life balance and had no reason to consider building up my credentials. My existing credentials had gotten me in the door and then the quality of my work itself was good enough to not just keep me there, but to get me promoted a couple of times early on.

But it’s not just that I was fine leaving well enough alone. I also had a certain, well, attitude about it. I refused to consider another degree or a certification. I felt strongly I had already done more than my fair share of time as a student.

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Work Skills Talk: Overcoming Procrastination

My post last week about impostor syndrome got me thinking. It’s not just impostor syndrome academics who tend to struggle with putting limits around info gathering. It’s common among all academics. And so that made me think about other work skills that us academics all need to work on a bit. These are some habits that we academics – yes, even me! – pick up through grad school and beyond. Note that I’m not labeling these habits as good or bad – they can serve us well, but they can also be our worst enemies at times. But let’s be real: there are some academic habits that I have needed to adjust, work around, or just plain kick to the curb over the years. These rear their heads most prominently when you first start working or when you transition into a whole new career, so if you’re new to your job, listen up. (But that doesn’t mean we can’t all use a refresher.) Let’s start with a REALLY common one: procrastination.

We all know we need to stop procrastinating. WAY easier said than done, though, so we all need to continuously work on this one, unfortunately. I truly think this can be a lifelong struggle. (Sorry, don’t mean to be a downer!). Procrastination can take many forms.

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