One of the best ways to further your understanding of your career goals, including licensure, is to participate in an informational interview with a professional who is licensed in the state where you would like to practice.
An informational interview is a conversation with a professional currently employed in an organization or industry you are considering. Informational interviews can fulfill the following objectives while researching licensure requirements:
- Help you decide if you would like to pursue a career in a specific career field
- Assist you in the process of narrowing your focus within the broader field of counseling and psychology
- Provide you with information on the credentials needed to work within a specific career field or for a specific employer
- Provide you with information about the steps towards licensure in your state
- Build your confidence in conducting professional conversations
- Expand your network of professional contacts
- Provide you with information and guidance on starting your own private practice
Who to Interview
The following are some strategies for locating individuals to contact:
- Use your network. Talk with your friends, relatives, learners and alumni of current and past schools, professors, co-workers, former co-workers or neighbors. Ask if they know anyone working in the industry you're considering. If they do, ask for a phone number or email address.
- Licensing board directories. Many state licensing board websites have directories which you can use to search for someone holding a specific license. Use these directories to locate a professional in your community.
- Professional association websites. Most states have chapters of national associations related to your field of interest. By visiting their website, you are often able to find a list of active members and people leading the organization.
- Professional association events. If you don't find someone to interview at the event, you'll likely obtain a few phone numbers of potential interviewees. A professional organization event is a great place to find many individuals in your targeted industry all in the same room!
- Read your local news. Look in the business section for biographies of people in your field of interest. Magazines also often contain features profiling local professionals.
- Call around. Use the yellow pages or an organizational directory to find phone numbers. You can also call an organization and ask for the name of the person you'd like to speak with by job title.
Scheduling an Informational Interview
Informational interviews can be scheduled by phone or email. In your initial phone call or email message, remember to:
- Tell the person how you obtained their name or contact information.
- Explain that you are interested in the career field would like to learn more about it.
- Ask for between twenty and thirty minutes of the person's time.
- Express your appreciation for any information they have to offer.
- Be prepared for a response suggesting you contact Human Resources or the organization website. Politely explain that you are not looking for job openings, but would like to gather information.
- It may be helpful to prepare a 'phone script' before calling. Following is a sample to help you get started:
- "Hello, my name is David Kerry. I got your phone number from Cheryl Johnson, who thought you would be a good person for me to talk to about the field of counseling. I'm currently enrolled in a Masters program and am in the process of making some career decisions. I would like to speak to someone currently working in the field to learn more. May I set up a 20-30 minute appointment with you at your convenience?"
Preparing for an Informational Interview
Much like a job interview, informational interviews require careful preparation. You will want to take the following steps to ensure you get the most out of the interview:
- Research the industry. Pay attention to required skills and education, product(s) produced, salary ranges and hiring trends.
- Research the individual. If possible, find out some information about the person with whom you will be speaking
- Plan the questions you'd like to ask. Bring a list of questions with space to take notes. For a list of suggested questions download sample Information Gathering Questions.
- Bring your business card. Leave the interviewee with a way to contact you should they think of you for a position in the future. Also, remember that they have given up time in their schedule to meet with you. Let them know that if there is anything you can do to repay them in the future; they should feel free to contact you!
The Informational Interview
Remember that you asked for this meeting, so you will "lead" the meeting. Begin by thanking them for taking the time to meet with you. Then give them a brief (1 minute or so) overview of your background and what areas you are now exploring. Tell them you have written down a list of questions and then begin!
Helpful hints for conducting your interview:
- Dress as you would for an actual job interview.
- Plan to arrive a few minutes early.
- Ask for the names of other networking contacts.
- Before you leave, ask the person for a business card so that you can follow up.
- Send a thank you note! Within a few days, send a note expressing appreciation and asking the contact to keep you in mind if they come across any other helpful information.
- Evaluate the conversation. Think about what you learned and how the information might affect your career decisions. Do you have the skills and interest to work in this field? What action do you need to take to get into the organization/industry? Did you learn about a specific license or certification needed for the career? Are there other people you should contact?
- Keep the door open. Send a follow-up e-mail or note to your contact to update them after you've had a chance to conduct further research.
- Update your records. Maintain a list of networking contacts and their email addresses and phone numbers. Your records should also include the interview questions you asked and the information you gained. If resources or references were provided, include those here as well.
Capella University cannot guarantee licensure, certification, or endorsement. State regulations vary regarding professional licensure and salary benefits. It is learners' responsibility to understand and comply with requirements for their state.