Sick of your job? Facing down another joyless workday that’s sucking the sunshine out of your otherwise cheery disposition? Well, cut yourself, your co-workers, and your clientele a break and find another job. Start with an informational interview.
But before you do, spend a little time researching career alternatives, so you don’t jump into a similar, loveless situation. Schedule a few informational interviews and discover a world of boundless opportunity. Regain the enthusiasm that propelled you into nursing by embarking on a new career.
What is an Informational Interview?
An informational interview is a data-gathering process where you meet with a thought leader, industry influencer, or a potential employer who can advise you about a career area that sparks your curiosity. You are not necessarily seeking an actual job; you’re merely researching opportunities.
An informational interview also is a networking tool because the person you’re meeting with may come from your previously established network or may contribute to it as a new connection.
Finally, an informational interview keeps you sharp for job interviewing, which is a skill best learned through repetition.
Don’t be shy about contacting strangers for an informational interview. Many reasons might motivate people to make time for you, even if they don’t know you.
For example, my mentor taught me to never turn down an interview with a potential job candidate just because I didn’t currently have a job for that person. She insisted that one day I might have a job for that person or I might be motivated to create one. Plus, some people just enjoy meeting people who are interested in their opinions and what they do. And, if you’re a leader in your field, making time to discuss your work is an obligation that comes with the job.
Research to Do and Questions to Ask
Informational interviewing doesn’t start with the actual interview, but with some self-reflection and research. Here are some tips for making sure you consider every angle before and after the interview.
Tip 1: Take stock of your current professional job and role.
Decide what you still like about it or why you took it in the first place. For example, burned out or not, what is it that you like about your job? Is it the adrenaline rush you get from pulling a critically ill patient from the brink of death? Is it learning about the newest tools and technology you can use on your unit? Or is it interactions with patient family members that make your day?
Tip 2: Scan the healthcare environment in a new and different way, looking for jobs, roles, and people you think might engage you, or that dovetail with aspects of your job that still satisfy you.
For example, if as a critical-care nurse, you love saving lives, go online and look for other specialties that do just that, such as trauma, emergency, or flight transport nursing. If it’s technology you like, explore the medical device industry where healthcare professionals are needed to market products and training.
Or if working with families is your thing, take a look at specialties that revolve around the family, such as family nurse practitioner, home care nurse, or palliative care provider.
Frankly, as I got older, I realized that it was time to move on when I found that my passion to care for the sickest patients and to use the latest technology waned, and I wanted to spend more time with families.
Tip 3: Locate and contact someone in your newly targeted field.
Find the person either directly or indirectly (someone who knows someone) through your network, professional organizations, or an online search. This person might be working in the field or might be a leader tangentially involved. Send an email or pick up the phone, but have a distinct script explaining why you want to meet and what your availability is. Set up your appointment and then get ready.
Remember, in this case you are the interviewer. You should look professional and represent yourself well. Although this is not a formal job interview, not all jobs are advertised, and the person you’re interviewing may be on the lookout for a job candidate.
Carry a current resumé and be prepared to switch into the interviewee mode, if necessary. However, you are on a fact-finding journey to see if you have a future in a new field. Ask about what it’s like to work in the field, new and future developments, and job opportunities. With a little prior research, questions should present themselves. But typical questions include:
• What first drew you to this field?
• What’s a typical workday for you?
• What do you like best and least about your involvement about this field?
• What is the future of this field?
• Who are the leading employers in this field?
• Are there others whom I should interview about this?
• What am I not asking? What do I need to know?
Tip 5: Follow up with a thank-you note, either online or in print, as you would in a job interview.
If you follow up on your interviewee’s recommendations for additional interviews, don’t forget to report back on how they went. You’ll strengthen your relationship with your interviewee.
If the informational interview went well, you will have a new, important contact in your network. If you have chosen your specialty area appropriately, you will have an option that might relaunch your career.
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