Informational Interviews: Utilizing Your Network

By Jessica Kweon, Peer for Career

A great way to build your network while gaining a better understanding of an industry you want to pursue is to arrange informational interviews. The purpose of informational interviews is to discover more about a certain field you may be considering; although informational interviews can help you develop productive working relationships that may lead to new opportunities, they should be conducted without any expectation of a job offer. One important thing to keep in mind is that informational interviews are not your standard job application interviews. During informational interviews, you are the interviewer and you get to ask questions about a professional’s experiences, challenges, and interests. Although informational interviews tend to be less stressful, you should always prepare for an informational interview as if it is a real interview and maintain the same level of professionalism.

For a successful informational interview, know exactly what you want to get out of the experience and make sure to do research. Think about industries you are planning on pursuing, the companies you would like to work for, and certain people who you can meet with to help you gain that knowledge. Make sure to take advantage of your current networks such as professors at Baruch, previous employers, friends, or even family. If you are currently working or interning, make sure to benefit from that network as well. Not only do you want to research what you want to learn more about, but also you should consider how that professional can help you. View their LinkedIn profile, browsing their background and their current position. Additionally, be aware of any recent events that have occurred relevant to the industry that might be worth taking note.

Once the professional has accepted your invitation for an informational interview, make sure to be ready. Remember to treat this as a real interview, so be prepared and professional. Have a list of questions available to ask the professional relating to his position and industry. Take notes during the meeting and let the conversation flow naturally. Towards the end, make sure to thank the professional for his or her time. Ask for any referrals for additional potential informational interviews and ask for their business card. Plus do not forget about that Thank You note! The professional has taken time out of his busy schedule to meet with you, so it is appropriate to follow up. Be sure to also keep records of who you have met and what you have learned for future reference.

Although informational interviews can seem intimidating, they are a great way to get informed about the career path you want to follow and clarify your own goals in the process.

A Remarkable Learning Experience Through Informational Interviewing

By Jamie Douglass-Espaillat, SCDC Higher Education Intern

An informational interview differs greatly from a formal interview. The purpose behind informational interviewing is to gain knowledge of a certain field while networking and creating industry contacts. I decided to conduct an informational interview in an effort to uncover a direction towards an area of full-time work upon my graduation this May. After reaching my contact and arranging a time and place to meet via email, I created a list of questions for the interview. I did not want to be confined to this list; it was created merely to provide some direction during the interview, in case I found it was needed.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Maziely (Mazi) Crisostomo, Director of the College Now program here at Baruch. I was excited; assisting high school students with navigating their way through higher education choices was my motivation behind pursuing a Master’s degree in the first place. College Now is a program that mentors high school students who attend public institutions within our city. The program provides the opportunity to high school juniors and seniors attending schools in traditionally underserved neighborhoods to partake in college level courses through dual enrollment. College Now also extends its services to home-schooled students and students with disabilities.

Mazi has an extensive history of working in college access. She began as an outreach worker at Queens Community House, assisting students with a history of truancy to navigate accelerated paths to their high schools diplomas. She then moved on to Phipps Community Development Corporation in the Bronx where she helped students apply to college, and later to Good Shepherd Services at West Brooklyn Community High School where she resumed working with truant students. Mazi thoroughly enjoyed her work but wanted more. She eventually transitioned to College Now and is juggling a variety of responsibilities in her new role as Director.

When speaking of her new position and how it fulfills her, Mazi said she finds the most enjoyment in seeing her students succeed and watching them promote the program to their peers. Receiving gratitude from the students she mentors is also fulfilling. When discussing challenges within her role, Mazi’s concern is the ability to sufficiently promote the program and be available to students while handling the administrative duties that come with her position in a short-staffed office. She was also concerned with keeping her students motivated.

The interview concluded with a discussion about the plethora of resources available to students, especially those who are interested in pursuing vocational paths. Mazi’s passion for assisting students in navigating the sometimes blurry high school-to-college pathway is evident through her extensive knowledge and desire to mentor. Speaking with her was not only personally informative, but also reinforced my decision to pursue a career in higher education.

Prior to meeting with Mazi, I was aware that conducting an informational interview would be beneficial; after all, what opportunity to learn isn’t? What I was not aware of was the reassurance I would gain from the experience. Meeting with Mazi not only provided encouragement of my professional choices but was also inspirational. It gave me the motivation I needed to enter my last semester of graduate school here at Baruch with excitement and vigor.