Informational Interviewing: A Unique Way to Learn …

by Leigh Milligan, Head Editor, INALJ Pennsylvania and former Head Editor of INALJ Wisconsin

Informational Interviewing: A Unique Way to Learn about Libraries and Network at the Same Time

Leigh MilliganOne technique in networking and job-hunting that I have been interested in as of late is informational interviewing.  I read a blog post on INALJ last year by Chelsea Jordan-Makely about what exactly an informational interview is and her experiences with one she did, and her blog post drew me in. Job-hunting sure can be stressful, especially when you are not getting interviews and/or hearing back from different employers. I think it could be a bunch of fun taking this non-traditional technique to job hunting and networking.

What is an informational interview?  An informational interview is an interview between you and another professional to learn more about a potential career or industry, and/or a particular place of employment. Maybe you are trying to decide between becoming an academic or a public librarian?  By doing an informational interview at these different libraries you will learn the ins and outs of each career, as well as possibly figure out which type of library you want to work at. You may even want to work at the library you informational interview at.

Don’t forget though: An informational interview is not a job interview. You will still treat is at such: dress professional, act professional, ask thoughtful questions, send a thank you note at the end etc. Informational interviewing is a great way to learn about different places to work, find out what is right for you, and possibly meet and connect with someone in the field.

Technically, I have done an informational interview. When I attended library school, I had to learn as much as I could about an academic library. I chose my local community college.  I interviewed the director about the library size, and resources available to students. She gave me a tour of the library and told me about all the different projects her staff was currently working on.  The director also introduced me to her staff and I asked them questions about their particular jobs as well, such as reference services and technology available in the library. I prepared my questions before I met with the director, and wrote thank-you notes to all I met with after the interview. I was given business cards to keep in contact with those staff members I spoke to if I had additional questions.  A job didn’t come out of this experience, as this was more or less for a school project, but I definitely learned a lot about the library. I feel I would do well in a small community college library.

Now that I obtained my library degree and I have been on the library job market for quite some time, I think I would like to try informational interviewing again. I just got to rack up the courage to e-mail a few libraries and get myself back in the game!

Check out the links below if you would like to learn more about informational interviewing or try it on your own:

Some great tips by Diana La Femina, Head Editor for INALJ South Carolina on informational interviewing.

A great tutorial on informational interviewing

And even more links to read and learn from!


updated 4/20/14 with the new state Leigh covers

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