An informational interview is a meeting with a contact who can help you learn more about a career, an industry, or even a specific organization. You can get a firsthand account to determine if the career might be a good fit for you.

Job shadowing can be thought of as an extended informational interview. The duration of a job shadowing experience will be decided by you and the person you’re shadowing. Read about the career or organization of interest so you will have a foundation of knowledge from which to generate questions.

Ask your contacts (including your career consultant) if they can introduce you to someone in your targeted profession. You may also be able to identify someone from a staff directory. When you contact the person by phone or email, introduce yourself and let them know you are interested in his or her profession and/or organization. Ask if he or she would be willing to meet with you to discuss work.

Provide a brief statement about yourself (e.g., major, year in school) and let the professional know what you are hoping to achieve in the meeting. If pursuing an informational interview, you can ask for approximately 30 minutes. If pursuing a job shadowing experience, you can let him or her recommend the length of time.

Show respect and professionalism by being on time, dressed appropriately. Be organized with a list of questions and a notepad. Write a thank-you note immediately afterward. If the person you interviewed suggested specific actions, report back to let him or her know the results. If you established good rapport with your interviewee, ask if you might maintain contact as you continue through college and begin your job search.

Reflect on what you learned during the interview and how the information might help you narrow your career focus. Arrange additional interviews and/or shadowing opportunities.