Informational Interview Guide For PhDs

Informational interviews play a crucial role in your career pivot. At After Your PhD, we firmly believe that these interviews are transformative. Engaging in questioning and seeking clarity defines the essence of informational interviews. Without asking questions, you cannot fully comprehend the world around you.

The emphasis of an informational interview lies not in securing a job but in learning and nurturing relationships. When I ventured into careers beyond academia, my network was quite limited. However, with each informational interview, my network expanded gradually, bolstering my confidence. Over time, my perspective shifted, revealing the possibilities beyond the confines of the Ivory Tower.

Informational Interviews – Where To Start?

If you’re at a crossroads, contemplating whether academia is the right path for you, it’s essential to explore alternative avenues. Here are some suggestions on where to find individuals you could interview to gain insight into different career paths.

When conducting informational interviews, don’t limit yourself to those with a PhD in their name. While individuals with doctorate degrees may offer valuable insights, professionals from diverse backgrounds can also provide unique perspectives that broaden your understanding of potential career paths. Engaging with a diverse range of individuals can help you identify opportunities you may not have considered and gain a more comprehensive view of your options outside of academia.

Remember, the goal of informational interviews isn’t solely to secure a job but to gather information, build relationships, and expand your network. Approach each interview with curiosity and an open mind, seeking to learn from each person’s journey and insights. By casting a wide net and embracing a variety of perspectives, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions about your career path and navigate your transition with confidence.

Where to Find People For Informational Interviews

  • LinkedIn: This should be the primary focus in your networking since LinkedIn is geared towards the private sector. Joining relevant LinkedIn groups or participating in industry-specific discussions can also help you expand your network.
  • Twitter (Now X): Explore hashtags such as #altac (alternative academic) or #academictwitter to discover professionals who have transitioned from academia to other fields. Engage with individuals sharing their experiences and insights on Twitter, and consider reaching out to them for informational interviews or further discussion.
  • Students in Cohort Who Left Academia: Connect with former classmates or peers from your academic cohort who have transitioned into non-academic careers. They can provide firsthand insights into their career journeys and offer valuable advice based on their experiences navigating similar transitions. Sometimes they speak at panels, at least from my experience.
  • Facebook Groups: Joining Facebook groups focused on career exploration, post-academic life, or specific industries of interest can be a valuable resource for finding individuals to interview. Professor is In has a pretty strong Facebook presence.

How To Setup an Informational Interview – From My Personal Experience

  • #1 – List all the career paths that interest you.
  • #2 – Narrow down a few that align with your career goals and interests.
  • #3 – Reach out to folks with careers that interest you on places like LinkedIn. Simply send a message saying “Hi! I am exploring new careers and I want to ask you some questions about what you do as a [the name of the job title]. Can you spare 20-30 minutes? Here’s my calendly (having time slots can cut down scheduling time conflicts) and you can schedule a time that best works for you.”
  • #4 – Prepare some interview questions that can help you learn more about the role, gaps in skills, skills you should focus on, etc.
  • #5 – Go to the interview and don’t assume anything. The goal is to learn, not necessarily get a referral.
  • #6. Finish your interview, and send a follow-up thank you note.

Book Recommendations for Informational Interviews & Relationship Building

While not all of these books are specifically focused on informational interviews, I believe they can help improve your interviewing skills and effectively communicate your career journey. When you employ informational interviews as a proactive job search strategy, you are essentially marketing yourself and narrating your story. Thus, it’s crucial to approach these interviews with sincerity and authenticity while striving to make a meaningful impact.

Note: affiliate links are used below. Any books bought help support this site!

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