5 Reasons Why Informational Interviewing Is The #1 Engineering Career Development Skill

How often do you reach out to others to learn from their experiences by way of a one-to-one conversation? I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I was 35 years old, and in graduate school in 1992, before I learned about the conversation referred to as an informational interview.

Five Reasons

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But now after years and years of positive personal experiences with informational interviews, I’m completely sold.

Based on those experiences, here are what I believe are the five most important reasons for adding this conversational skill to your career development and life skills toolbox:

Reason #1 – Explore careers, companies, and jobs, before making the personal plunge. 

Learning information that’s related to careers is where informational interviewing really shines, and where it’s used most often. It’s a great process for helping anyone to better understand careers, companies, and jobs they’re considering, before they actually choose them.

 It’s such a shame when new grads, as well as full-time employees, find themselves in jobs or careers they don’t enjoy, partially because they did very little research before accepting the original job offer.

Reason #2 – Learn one-on-one from experts about any topic of your choice. 

Informational interviews let you ratchet up your learning by moving beyond what Google can find on the Internet or what you can read in a book.

Direct conversations with other human beings let you tap the wealth of knowledge, experiences and stories that are inside of their heads. 

Reason #3 – Outstanding way to add to your network of supportive relationships.

Informational interviews are excellent catalysts for the development of new relationships. 

In my opinion, this may be the most important reason of the five, because relationships are what fuel friendships, careers, companies, communities, families, and much more. 

This quote from author Margaret Wheatley speaks directly to the importance of relationships in our lives:

Relationships are all there is.  Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone. 

Reason #4 – It truly is about giving, and not just about getting.

You’re not just getting help from the person you’re interviewing. In exchange for the time and information they give you, you’re giving them the opportunity to feel good about helping you.

Plus, there’s always the chance that you may be able to help them. I encourage interviewers to always consider asking the question, “How can I help you?”, sometime before the conversation ends.

Reason #5 – Develop invaluable conversational and relationship-building skills

Reasons #1 through #4 should provide plenty of incentive for anyone to get started conducting informational interviews, but this final reason should seal the deal for sure.

This reason is all about the building and development of skills that you use in all areas of your life, both at home and in the workplace.

Here’s what I mean. While working through the process steps of an informational interview, you will:

  • Hone your writing skills by writing professional invitation emails or letters
  • Use your organizational and time management skills to schedule and complete the interview
  • Learn how to prepare effectively for a face-to-face interview-style conversation
  • Improve your speaking, questioning, and listening skills by conducting the interview 
  • Demonstrate your professionalism by following up with a thank you and by properly managing the ongoing relationship

So what do you say? Are you convinced that informational interviewing should be in your career development and life skills toolbox?

If you’d like some help to get started, be sure to check out my latest (FREE) STRAIGHT TALK GUIDE in the Learning Store here.

Question: From your experience, what’s the most important reason for doing informational interviews, and why?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Dear ECL Readers: This post is an excerpt from Chapter 2 in my new 64-page, how-to STRAIGHT TALK GUIDE titled, CONDUCTING INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS. On this page, you can learn more about the GUIDE, watch a short summary video and request a FREE downloadable copy.

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