I have found informational interviews to be very helpful. What is an informational interview? It is a meeting where the job seeker initiates an interview with one in their desired field, in which they ask for career and industry advice rather than employment. The purpose is to gather information on the field and find employment leads, and expand their professional network.
Every time I have done this it has lead to either further contacts, mentors, employment opportunities or just great advice. Most people are very willing to let you interview them as well so you have nothing to fear.
Here is a list of sample questions:
How did you get into this line of work?
What are you major responsibilities?
What are your greatest challenges and stresses at work?
Is the work collaborative or do you work more on your own?
What do you enjoy most about his role?
What kind of personal Characteristics for success are needed in your position?
What are the drawbacks? Are they typical of the position?
What is your typical workday like?
Do you have a set schedule?
What kind of hours do you work?
How much of that time is spent in the office?
Is this a growing field?
Where do you see the field going in the next ten years?
How is technology used in this field?
Are men and women treated similarly?
What type of education or certification do employers look for?
What type of work experience do employers look for?
What types of skills are needed?
What are the salary ranges?
Do you have a career mentor?
What are the key words or buzz words employers look for on resumes and cover letters?
What advice could you give me?
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were in my position?
With who else can you think of that would be helpful for me to speak with?
Here is a sample approach to set up an informational interview:
“Hello, Mrs Smith. A mutual acquaintance of ours, Nick Jones, suggested I get in contact with you as I’m interested in a similar career. Would you have time in the next week or so to meet with me for about 25 minutes? I should clarify that I’m not looking for a job, but any general industry information and advice you are willing to share.”