Informational Interviews and Job Shadowing: Learning About Careers

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  • 0:03 Exploring Career Options
  • 1:09 Informational Interview
  • 3:24 Job Shadowing
  • 4:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Exploring career options can be complicated. How can you really know what a career is like? In this lesson, we'll examine two ways to get the skinny on different careers: informational interviews and job shadowing.

Exploring Career Options

Marjory is in college, and she's a little worried. All of her friends seem to know what they want to do after college: go to medical school, work on Wall Street, become a teacher, or something else.

But Marjory doesn't have any idea what she wants to do with her career. Instead, she's wondering what careers are out there and which ones she would like. Marjory is exploring her career options. She knows that there are a lot of possible career paths that she can take, and she's trying to figure out which one is the best for her. She has a couple of jobs in mind: she thinks she might like to be a doctor or run a company.

While it sounds cool to be a doctor or high-flying executive, Marjory isn't sure that she'd really enjoy those things on a day-to-day basis. After all, she doesn't really like blood, and the idea of having to sit in meetings all day doesn't sound like a good time. She wishes that there was a way she could figure out if she'd prefer to be a doctor or an executive before committing to one of them.

Let's look at two ways that Marjory can explore the careers she might be interested in: informational interviews and job shadowing.

Informational Interview

Okay, so Marjory has decided that she either wants to be a doctor or a businesswoman. But she's not really sure what either of those entails; she just knows that they make a lot of money and they sound cool. She pictures herself waltzing into the office or telling people at parties that she's a doctor or a CEO, but when it comes down to understanding what she'll actually do all day at work, she's kind of at a loss.

Marjory needs more information, and one way to get it is through an informational interview. An informational interview involves meeting with someone to talk about what it's like to work in their field. Marjory can schedule an informational interview with a doctor and another one with an executive so that she can get a feel for what it's like and what it took to get to where they are today.

An informational interview is not a job interview. It's much more casual, and Marjory can ask questions that aren't usually a good idea to ask in a job interview, like what range of salaries she can expect to make in that career.

Through her school or her network of friends and family, Marjory will first want to contact the people she's interested in interviewing and explain that she's interested in their field and ask if there's a good time she can interview them.

Once she has an interview scheduled, she'll want to prepare questions that she's interested in asking. These could include questions about what the job is like on a day-to-day basis, what skills are required for success, and what the negatives of the job are. Because Marjory won't be able to be a CEO or doctor right after she graduates college, she'll also want to ask about entry-level positions in the field. For example, many new doctors have to work very long hours for not very much pay. That's something Marjory will want to know!

It's not necessary for Marjory to stick to just the questions that she prepares in advance. If something comes up in the interview, Marjory can feel free to ask other questions, but she should always have a list of questions prepared ahead of time.

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