Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

Career Building for Expats in the US | The Informational Interview

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Mon, Mar 12, 2012 @ 09:28 AM

Career Building for Expats in the US  informationAre you an expat looking to build your career in the US? Perhaps you have relocated to a major US city like New York or Boston with your spouse and kids. Your spouse is working full time, progressing in his or her career and establishing great professional connections. What about you? Maybe you left a great job back in your home country to come to the US and provide support for your family with the cultural transition. But now you are feeling ambitious and you are ready to take this oppportunity to build your resume while you are living in the United States. Where can you start? A great way to start is by gathering information through an informational interview. In this article, I will tell you about why and how we conduct informational interviews in the US and how you can use this practice to learn more about your field, build your network and maybe find a job opportunity.



What is an Informational Interview?


Maybe you have never heard of the term "informational interview." A lot of professionals conduct informational interviews in the US when they are changing careers, getting started in a new field, looking to move up in their current field or just hoping to build relationships. It's a great way to learn more about a specific job or niche without having the pressure of a formal interview.



4 Reasons to Conduct an Informational Interview:


  • Build Connections and Relationships in your Field: Have you ever heard the saying "It's not what you know, it's who you know"? In large cities like New York or Boston, having great connections is extremely important. By conducting informational interviews, you will get to know someone who is already working in the field that you want to be in. He or she might be able to connect you with a job opening if it becomes available.


  • Learn More About the Field or the Job: The goal of this exchange is to gather information. You want to learn as much as possible about what it is like to work in the job or the field that you are interested in. Why is it better than conducting research online? You will have a chance to learn from an "insider". You will hear about the pros and cons and decide if this is really the right path for you.


  • Think Before you Invest in Career Training: There might be different education requirements to work in your field in the US. If this is the case, you want to be sure that this work environment suits you before you pay a lot of money to earn a graduate degree or specialized job training. Choosing to go back to school is a big decision. You should get as much information as possible before you decide!


  • Practice your Interviewing Skills: To perform well in an interview, you need more than just good interview preparation for your English skills. You need to have a clear understanding of how interviewing might be different in American culture and how nonverbal communication could influence the message that you send. What is the best way to learn all of this? Experience! An informational interview provides a low-pressure environment for you to practice your interviewing skills.



Who Should you Interview?


  • Friends and acquaintances (and friends of friends)
  • Anyone in your professional network or professional association
  • Connections through social media (Linked in, Twitter)
  • Thought leaders in your field, public figures



Questions to Ask During an Informational Interview:


  • Why did you choose this job? What kind of person does well in this position or this career?
  • What is a typical day like at your workplace or in this career?
  • What do you think will happen in this field in the future? How will it change?
  • What skills do I need to build now to get a job in this field this year?
  • What special advice would you give someone who is entering this field?
  • Who do you know that I should talk to next? Could you put me in touch with that person?



Now Go Make Some Phone Calls!


So if you are looking to build a career while you are living as an expat in the US, try a few informational interviews! Remember, you don't have to conduct your informational interview in an office. You might feel more comfortable inviting the person out for a coffee or lunch. In a more relaxed environment, you might have a more productive discussion. Now you have the information you need, so go make some phone calls and set up your first informational interview!


Did you get some great ideas from this article? Do you have any friends who might benefit from this article? If so, please share it with them on Facebook, Twitter or Linked In! Thanks so much!



 Practical Tips for your Life in the U.S.


Photo credit: mag3737

Topics: Interviewing

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