As part of our ongoing collaboration with UChicagoGRAD, the ELI presented a special, career-focused Conversation Hour on May 10, 2019.

The topic of this session was “Informational Interviews”.  These are conversations held with a prospective employer before going through a formal interview or application process, or with an alumnus in your field to get advice or ideas about opportunities.  As the spring quarter winds down, many graduate students are thinking about internships and life after graduation, so our students could put this topic into practice in the immediate future.

There are a few keys to a successful informational interview:

First, you need to strike a balance between impressing the person that you are interviewing (in hopes that they will be likely to add you to their network or recommend you for employment), while also learning enough about the opportunities to know if you really want to pursue them further.

Second, you need to compromise between an immediate need for a job or recommendation, and knowing that networking and finding the best career path takes time and should not be rushed.

Finally, sometimes you cannot politely and directly ask exactly what you want to know.  In these cases, it is important to know how to ask questions that will give you hints about the information that you are looking for and to have strategies for phrasing these questions.

To help generate ideas about these keys, Josephine Cai from UChicagoGRAD and Joshua Ruddy from the ELI were on hand. They led the conversation in an open, interview-like style, sharing their expertise while drawing on the experiences and ideas of all of the graduate students in attendance.  Several of the participating students had already done an informational interview and were able to offer valuable advice to the group based on their experiences.

Over the course of the hour, students practiced informational interview strategies and benefited from one another’s ideas and experiences.  We look forward to continuing this collaboration with UChicagoGRAD in the Autumn.