You’re finishing up your first month of your internship, and whether it’s at a law firm, fashion company, or newspaper, you’re craving to know the inside scoop from your boss or co-workers on how to go further in your industry. Your colleagues have been in your field way longer than you have, so their information has the potential to be gold and well worth the anxiety. Her Campus and Fred Burke, an Executive Director of The Career Center at Hofstra University, have the inside scoop on how to tackle the intimidating informational meeting.
Don’t Be Nervous
Talking to your boss or coworkers can be intimidating. But it’s also really important. “When you’re doing an internship you want to find people who are going to advance your career,” says Burke. “Take advantage of every opportunity and take an interest in your field by meeting with your boss and coworkers.” So don’t let your nerves get to you. Plan out what you’re going to say. If it helps, write your plan on paper and practice in front of the mirror. Make sure that you stay calm and collected while you’re talking to your boss. Simply ask if you can sit down and talk to your boss about what experiences she’s had in the field and how she got to this position. From personal experience, your boss will likely be supportive because she wants you to succeed.
Talk To Your Boss At a Convenient Time
Make sure that you’re not interrupting your boss during a conference call, meeting, or conversation with another coworker to ask about scheduling a meeting with her. The end or beginning of the workday is the best time to talk to your boss or other coworkers, or you can send them an email. You will also get to know your other coworkers’ schedules as your internship goes on, making it easier to initiate the informational meeting. Maybe it would be most convenient to meet over lunch, or, if your boss usually eats lunch at her desk, suggest chatting at the end of the day instead.
Preparing for the Meeting
You don’t want to come into the meeting empty-handed, so prepare a list of questions beforehand. Ask your boss about her position now and how she got here. Below, Burke provides sample questions to help you get started.
How do you spend a typical day or week? What tasks do you perform?
How much variety/routine is there in your job?
How did you get into this line of work? Was yours a typical career path?
What do you think are the most important skills/qualifications for someone in this job?
What are the most/least interesting aspects of your work?
What type of environment is this to work in? How would you describe others in this field?
What kind of work schedule does this career require? (Overtime, weekends, freelancing, travel, 9-5, etc.)
What is a typical entry-level position?
Can you think of other jobs that would enable me to combine my skills in _____ and interests in _____?
What professional organizations are active in this field?
What trade or professional journals do you read?
What advancement opportunities exist beyond entry level?
What advice would you have for me if I chose to pursue a career in this area?
At the Meeting
Of course, ask your questions. But this is also a great opportunity to explain what you hope to accomplish in the future, and hear what personal advice your boss or coworker has for you. The most important career lessons can be the lessons you learn from your boss and other coworkers, and asking for advice also shows a genuine interest in the work that they’ve done. Tell her about yourself and ask for her feedback on your career trajectory. If it feels appropriate, bring a notebook and jot down some things she says; if not (like if you’re meeting over lunch), then write down some notes about your meeting when you get back to your desk.
Always Write a Thank You Note
Writing a thank you note is an almost foolproof way to make a stellar impression. Make sure to thank your boss after your meeting in person but also to write a formal thank you note as soon as possible. Burke says “If you contact the person in 2-3 days the person will remember you and it will give a good impression. You also have to remain in contact in order to leave a lasting impression.” A written thank you note is always the most memorable. Just make sure that it’s personal and avoid generic pre-made thank you notes.
Don’t be afraid to ask to meet with your boss or other coworkers for an informational meeting. Your boss wants to see you succeed, and her advice and information is priceless. Stay calm and follow these rules and you’ll make a fabulous impression, and get a ton of information that will help you down the road.
CNN, Asking for – and maximizing – the informational interview
Fred Burke, Executive Director of the Career Center at Hofstra University