I’m a new graduate from the special education program at high school. I’m looking for a career – not just a job – in early childhood education as an assistant (ECA). I had a two month co-op placement in a child care centre which helped me chose this career path. I would like to learn as much as possible about this type of work. My Reena coach suggested that we arrange information interviews with professionals in this field as this is an excellent strategy for my career search. Please can you help me understand how to do this?
Signed: Career Explorer
Information interviews are excellent ways for you to collect information about a job, a career field, an industry and its trends, and/or a company. Also, it can also help you to build your professional network in your desired field. It’s not a job interview; and it’s not about asking for a job. This type of interview is about talking with someone who is working in your dream job and who can give you a better idea of what to expect when you enter this field. Here are seven steps to conducting an information interview as presented by different Employment and Career Centres that I’ve met over the years as a job developer.
1. Contact. Using social media, the internet, the library and any other resource, identify about 10 to 15 child care centres and find out the names of their ECA / ECE professionals – anyone who is already established in this career. Through research, I usually contact the manager or head of the company and start from there. Obtain the correct spelling of the name, the job title, phone number and email by calling the company directly. Sometimes, and only if it’s possible to access the profile, I message the professional through LinkedIn.
2. Prepare. Having a script in point form of what you want to say to this professional is important. When you call, explain who you are, and the program you are in and that you will require only about 15 – 20 minutes for the interview. Be specific as to why you are calling and make sure they understand that YOU ARE NOT LOOKING FOR A JOB – YOU ARE LOOKING FOR ADVICE on your career plan, your resume, the shortages, and skill requirements. Practice, practice and practice with your job coach, mentor, family and/or friends. Here’s an example of an introductory script (I’d start with a phone call and then follow up with an email if you can find it): Dear Mr. _______, My name is ______ . I’m a new graduate from high school. I am interested in building my career as an ECA and I am reaching out to you because you are the head of a successful child care centre. I would love to learn more about the child care field. I know you are busy, but would it be possible to meet with you? Even 20 minutes of your time would be appreciated. Please let me know. Thank you so much. Your name, and telephone and email.
3. Schedule. Arrange the meeting. Obtain specific details of where to meet and when. Confirm your meeting the day before by email. If you know how to use Outlook, I’d send an invite to the person you are meeting.
4. Research. It’s important to learn about the company before you go to the meeting. And you want to prepare a list of questions to ask. Some job coaches recommend emailing the questions in advance. There are a ton of sites on the internet that offer the best questions to ask on the information interview. For example, https://www.themuse.com/advice/informational-interview-best-questions-to-ask
5. Attire. Dress professionally. It’s like an interview. And you never know what can happen as a result of this meeting. It’s a strategy to the hidden job market. I’ve known job seekers who have been referred to job opportunities through the information interview contact. So first impressions are key.
6. Materials for the meeting. Have your questions and resume, pad of paper and a pen in a folder. If you have a portfolio and business cards, include this as well. Be ready to take notes of the conversation.
7. Follow up. After the interview, ask for a business card and if you can connect with the professional on LinkedIn. Within 24 hours of your meeting, write an email thank you note. Maintain contact. Ask for referrals and information. If you received feedback on your resume, send an updated version of it. This contact could lead you to your new boss. You never know.
8. Support. As I suggest with the entire job / career search process, I recommend connecting with a local supported employment program with job coaches to help you with arranging the information interview as well as other strategies to help you find meaningful and sustainable employment.
To submit your concerns, questions, issues on your job, career and/or employment related issues to Joanna Samuels, Reena’s Employment Resource Supervisor, IN CONFIDENCE, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.