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Informational interviews

This article by Darcey Gillie introduces the concept of an informational interview.

The internet is one very useful source of information but even at its very best, it can only offer an incomplete picture. Often times when we speak to researchers struggling to generate options, they conclude themselves that they “can’t picture” what working as an investment banker/patent attorney/teacher/development officer/IT project manager/transport planner/management consultant is actually like.

Some people may struggle to imagine the office environment working for a local authority, a national charity, small enterprises making highly specialised research instruments or providing educational research services. Conducting informational interviews can help fill in the blanks.

Whether you’re looking for a career in or beyond higher education – informational interviews are one of the best ways to get accurate up-to-date information to help you make decisions about possible career paths. Evidence from a diverse range of research shows that having conversations about career options with those who do the job – so-called “informational interviews” – is one of the most powerful and effective ways to successfully start and progress in a career.

Read the “Setting up an informational interview” information from the University of Edinburgh Careers Service explaining more about what they are. It also has a script you can use and adapt to conduct an informational interview with anyone. Then take our test to see how likely you are to set up your own informational interview and get guidance on how to overcome any barriers to doing this.

When you are interviewing someone, remember to try and find out more about how the job or organisation may (or may not) fit in with your values, interests, lifestyle choices, and strengths as you explored last week.

Finally, if you’re not convinced about this, consider that most people enjoy talking about themselves and giving advice to others. However senior they are now, they all started somewhere. Many people really enjoy supporting others on their career journey and can be flattered to be asked!

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Career Management for Early Career Academic Researchers

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