In my last post, I discussed my experience doing informational interviews with teachers and how my observations pointed me in a new direction.  This post focuses on my experience doing the same with school counselors, as well as tips to keep in mind when doing this type of “career discovery” session.

My time with the school counselors had more of a typical interview feel rather than observation.  A few interviews were done via phone whereas some of the counselors allowed me to chat with them, in person, at their office.  While I didn’t get to “observe” their day-to-day interactions, I did get a good feel for the job.

Some of the questions I asked these counselors were:

  • How did you get into this profession?
  • How long have you been doing this?
  • Can you describe a typical day for me?
  • What are the biggest challenges you face?
  • What do you love about the work?
  • What would you recommend for someone like me to do to get into this field of work?

As with the teachers, my observations of this career pointed me in a new direction.  I found that the majority of a school counselor’s job is focused around helping students schedule their classes for the year rather than guiding them on day-to-day issues.  This is not what I imagined a school counselor position to be.  I was looking for a role where I could teach others how to maneuver life choices, and this position seemed to focus more on administrative tasks rather than personal coaching.

Several months after these informational interviews, I found myself in a recruiter role.  This position suited me very nicely.  I was not only able to help coach candidates through their job search and employers through the hiring process, but I was also called upon to help train new staff members.

Keep these things in mind when you decide to do informational interviews:

  • Be sure to set clear expectations of what you want to accomplish.
  • Make sure you schedule time off from work so that you don’t feel rushed.
  • Ask up front if you are able to “shadow” in the actual business environment.
  • Always follow up with a thank you note.
  • Keep in mind that informational interviews can help you gain better insight into a company culture as well as a specific profession.

Some informational interviews might lead to job opportunities within an organization or even a personal reference.  Others may just be enlightening insights that can steer your future path.  Either way, do yourself a favor and schedule one today.   Any type of tidbits that these professionals give you will help you gain a better footing in your search.  They are in the trenches, getting their hands dirty, and they know the inside culture of the company or profession in which you are interested.

Do you have any tips that you can add to my list above?  Please share any tips in the comments section!