Use Informational Interviews to Explore, Learn, and Connect

jumping off a cliff
Published: Friday, June 3, 2016 by Kate M. Spaulding

I bet you’ve heard this advice during your MLIS or MARA path: Conduct informational interviews. And I bet you haven’t followed that advice yet. But, I have to tell you, although setting up and going through with one had me somewhat anxious, I did one last semester and it was much less terrifying in real time than my pre-interview angst predicted.

I bet I can predict and shoot down most of your arguments against taking this step. Wanna play?

Argument: I’ve never heard of informational interviewing before this program. It is not a real thing.
Rebuttal: Au contraire, mon frere.
a. It’s in Wikipedia, so it must be real
b. Lots of other resources online talk about how and why to conduct them
c. The nice librarian I talked to in October was not confused about what I was asking

Argument: I don’t know anyone I should talk to.
Rebuttal: Maybe not, but you have a network of people who can help you. Look in our Alumni Career Spotlights. Look through your connections on LinkedIn. My sister-in-law works with a guy whose wife agreed to my interview request. Maybe there’s a connection like that in your life?

Argument: I’m new to this LIS world. I don’t even know what questions to ask.
Rebuttal: I’ve got your back. There’s a whole list to get you started. I definitely just borrowed it for mine. Read this, too.

Argument: I don’t want to bother someone. And, anyway, why would they agree?
Rebuttal: I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: If someone sent you an email asking about the iSchool program, would you want to respond? I’m betting YES, because this great LIS community we are now a part of prides itself on helping others and sharing ideas. Plus, the graduates in the Alumni Career Spotlights voluntarily submitted them hoping that they would be contacted so that they can help. You wouldn’t want to disappoint them, now would you?

Anything else? No? Super.

Conducting informational interviews is a great way to learn about careers of interest, expand your knowledge of an industry, and increase your networking connections. Maybe you’ll figure out that interesting sounding job title is actually The Most Boring Job in The World. Or you’ll learn that public libraries near you get 100 applicants per job posting (me. sigh). Or that your sister-in-law secretly knows a ton of people. You will never find out if you don’t try. So go forth and interview (and then let us know how it goes, k?).

Did I fail to address your arguments against informational interviewing? Leave ‘em in the comments and I will vanquish those as well.

Photo courtesy Andy Spearing.

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