One of the best ways to prepare for your career goals is to better understand the profession itself, including licensure. A great way to do this is to set up an informational interview with an educator who is licensed in the state where you would like to work.
An informational interview is a conversation with a professional currently employed in a school, district, or position you're considering. While you're researching licensure requirements, informational interviews can:
- Help you decide if you'd like to pursue a career in a specific area, such as teaching or administration in P–12 education or higher education.
- Assist you in the process of narrowing your focus within the broader field of education.
- Provide you with information on the credentials needed to work within a specific career field or for a specific employer.
- Help you understand the steps to achieving licensure in your state.
- Build your confidence in conducting professional conversations.
- Expand your network of professional contacts.
Whom to Interview
- Use your network. Talk with your friends, relatives, professors, coworkers, former coworkers, neighbors, and students and graduates of schools you've attended. Ask if they know anyone working in the career field you're considering. If they do, ask for a phone number or email address.
- Search licensing board directories. Many state licensing board websites have directories to search for someone holding a specific license. Use these directories to locate a professional in your community.
- Visit professional association websites. Most states have chapters of national associations related to your field of interest. You can often find a list of active members and people leading the organization on their website.
- Attend professional association events. 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 education section for biographies of people in your field of interest. Magazines also often contain features profiling local education professionals.
- Call around. Use the yellow pages or an online organizational directory to find phone numbers for schools, colleges or universities, school district offices, and nonprofit education organizations. You can also call a school or organization and ask for the name of the person you'd like to speak with by job title.
Scheduling an Informational Interview
- Tell the person how you obtained their name or contact information.
- Explain that you're interested in the career field and would like to learn more about it.
- Ask for 20–30 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're not looking for job openings, but would like to gather information.
- It may be helpful to prepare a 'phone script' before calling. For example:
"Hello, my name is Matthew Campbell. I got your phone number from Pat Williams, who thought you would be a good person for me to talk to about teaching math at the secondary level. I'm currently enrolled in a master's program and am in the process of making some career decisions. It would be helpful for me to speak with someone who is currently teaching at the secondary level to learn more about the responsibilities, rewards, and challenges. 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.
- 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 person you interview with a way to contact you should they think of you for a position in the future. Also, remember that they've given up time in their schedule to meet with you. Let them know that if there's 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'll 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're now exploring. Tell them you've 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 email 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 with 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.