CAREER DEVELOPMENT / JUN. 28, 2014
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How Informational Interviewing Can Boost Your Career

Informational interviewing is a concept that might sound foreign to some career newbies. However, it's something that we see every day in career expos, workshops and conferences. In fact, it happens right in front of us and you may have unconsciously done it in hotels, cafes and even in your own office. It's basically a situation in which two or more people pursuing different professions congregate and discuss about their careers. The reason why it's called informational interviewing is because unlike job interviews, the motive is simply the exchange of crucial career information. It usually happens when one is in need of urgent consultation as to how a daunting task outside their career territory should be handled. With this in mind, we should ask ourselves, how can informational interviewing boost your career?

#1 Makes you think Different and Outside the Box
Problems are like eggs and just like breaking an egg, there are different ways of solving a problem. Some of us break eggs in a messy way while others do it flawlessly. The difference comes in thinking differently. There are tasks assigned to us in the workplace that have always ended up messy and more complicated. This happens mainly because we tried the same technique over and over again expecting different results. And unfortunately, that's the only technique we're aware about. But when it comes to informational interviewing, you can learn how things are done differently and outside your familiar career box. That way, you'll have more effective and relevant prerequisite skills to think differently when solving those difficult tasks.

#2 Makes you more Indispensable to your Company
Lately, companies have changed tact when it comes to hiring and firing of staff. To begin with, companies are hiring staff with skills that go beyond their familiar academic credentials. That's because in a bid to cut human resource costs, irrelevant job vacancies are being merged with relevant ones to have less yet more resourceful staff. Consequently, staff that show little or exceptional skills are the ones that end up being retrenched. Reason being they kept doing 'what they were required' to do instead of going the extra mile and acquiring skills beyond their familiar path. However, you can avoid this pitfall through regular informational interviewing. This not only makes you indispensable to your company, but it also makes you adapt to company changes in an efficient and convenient way.

#3 Improves Skill Level and Exceptional Career Reputation
I like what Zig Zglar once said, "When you do more than you're paid for, eventually you'll be paid for more than you do." We see this a lot especially when the staff is being considered for promotion. We all have a rough figure of who will clinch 'that' promotion having seen their exceptional reputation and impact at workplace. But how did they pull it off? Yes, their skills have been way beyond their pay grade and their academic credentials haven't changed, yet they keep handling more and more difficult tasks. I tend to think that informational interviewing must have helped them a lot. Because unlike books, career consultants and online resources, informational interviewing exposes you to straight answers from careerists who've been there and done that.

#4 Makes you a consistent Problem Solver
The danger of isolation is that you'll lack neighbours to help you out when a difficult obstacle stand in the way of your career progress. Unfortunately, many have turned their career journey into a lonely and isolated venture considering the current stiff competition being experienced in job markets around the world. But as the saying goes, two heads are better than one and in this case, information interviewing will give you an added advantage especially when your company is encountered with a seemingly insurmountable task thus saving it from additional consultation and outsourcing costs.

#5 Provokes the Urge to Pursue more Academic Credentials
As your competence to solve difficult tasks grows, you'll notice that promotions you deserve are passing you by simply because your academic credentials are in question. This will definitely feel like injustice on your part especially if your company values academic credentials above all other factors. Government institutions for instance have been known to do this considering their formal tendencies. Informational interviewing will be the perfect resource for you to figure out the best vocational training courses to pursue for certain job promotions. In addition, you'll get to know any emerging and cutting edge courses that will sky-rocket your academic credentials further than 'normal' vocational training could.

#6 Improves Career Prospects despite Industry Shake-ups or Job Loss
There comes a time when the unimaginable happens. Despite doing everything by the book and exceeding company expectations, you may still lose your job especially if your industry is on the verge of collapse. However, with informational interviewing, you'll have a variety of contingency measures in place to keep you going even when the tides get rough. First and foremost, there currently are many freelancing careerists who are performing much better than their formal job counterparts simply because they've tailor made their career resumes to suit varying clientèle needs. In addition, entrepreneurial ventures give you control over your career destiny since your potential will be dependent on your trendsetting and innovative ideas. Thus, informational interviewing will keep your career prospects high despite imminent industry shake-ups or job loss.

#7 Makes you a Mentor, Key Industry Player and Career Guru
Ultimately, with an impeccable track record of exceptional skills, work experience and an impressive academic resume, you'll find yourself in the big league of career experts, innovators and trend setters thanks to informational interviewing. You'll be a renowned and knowledgeable careerist being invited to career workshops, seminars and public lectures as a key speaker or chief guest. You'll be a mentor and career guru to many budding careerist as they consult you on crucial advice during tough times. Remember, through thick and thin, you've kept going and thus, your valuable experience will be of much help to despairing careerists. And who knows, with impressive academic credentials, you might end up being a full time lecturer when retirement comes knocking. The possibilities are endless.

Unfortunately, many careerists get useful informational tips in seminars and workshops without making any difference in their workplaces. That's because they never took note of key information that was shared during such events. However, it calls for a change of attitude and more attention when useful tips and ideas are discussed around us. Having a pen and note book at all times would be a great way to keep tabs and avoid getting carried away in case an informational interviewing opportunity presents. And as we all know, ideas have an uncanny behaviour of coming during the most unexpected and inconveniencing of times.

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