When considering a career, it is always worthwhile to talk with people in that profession who can tell you more about it. It may seem a little intimidating to approach someone for such an informational interview, but most people are happy to help and will likely be flattered by your interest. They may even let you spend a few hours with them at work.
1. How do I find someone to interview?
One easy way to meet people who use geospatial technologies in their work is to attend a GIS Day event near you. GIS Day is an international event that brings GIS users and exhibitors together in central locations so the general public can learn more about GIS and its associated technologies. While the specific date varies from year to year, GIS Day falls sometime in mid-November.
Other places to find people who use geospatial technologies include:
- local and state planning offices
- departments of transportation
- natural resources agencies and organizations.
2. How do I approach someone for an interview?
You may find it helpful to prepare your comments in advance. Below is a sample script to help you get started. Fill in your own information for the underlined parts.
Hello, my name is Chris Johnson. I am a junior at Central High School interested in learning more about careers in geospatial technologies. Pat Smith from Big Sky Consultants gave me your name.
May I take a moment of your time? Always ask if this is a good time for them to talk. If it’s not, ask when he or she will be available, then call at the appointed time.
I’d like to schedule an appointment to meet with you for 30 to 45 minutes to discuss your work. Would you be willing to meet with me?
Next week I’m available on Tuesday and Thursday, anytime after 3:30 pm. Would either of these days work for you?
Would your office be a convenient place to meet?
Can you please give me directions to your office?
Thanks so much. I look forward to meeting you Tuesday at 3:30 pm in your office.
Alternatively, you could send an email for your first contact. In most cases, you should follow your email with a phone call. Below is a sample email:
Dear Mr./Mrs/Ms. Jones,
I am a junior at Central High School interested in learning more about careers in geospatial technologies. Pat Smith from Big Sky Consultants suggested I speak with you. Would you be willing to meet with me for 30 to 45 minutes to discuss your work and answer some of my questions? I’m free anytime after 3:30 pm most Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Thank you for considering my request. I look forward to hearing from you.
3. How do I conduct an informational interview?
Dress neatly and arrive on time. Greet the person with a smile and a handshake as you introduce yourself. Always thank him or her for meeting with you, and have your questions prepared in advance. You might begin like this:
Hi, I’m Chris Johnson. Thanks so much for meeting with me and taking the time to answer my questions.
I know you work with geospatial technologies, but can you tell me more about what you do?
Don’t hesitate to ask follow-up questions or ask for clarification if you don’t understand something. Professionals may not realize they are using words or referring to things that you are not familiar with. Asking them to explain something you don’t understand is perfectly appropriate and indicates that you are interested and paying attention. You may also want to ask some of these questions:
- What do you like most about your job?
- What do you like least?
- What sort of formal education do you need for this job?
- Do people in this job dress informally or in traditional office wear?
- What hours do you work? Does the job require you to work nights or weekends?
- Could I shadow you on the job for a few hours to see first hand what your work is like?
- Do you know of any summer jobs or internships that would give me a sense of this work and help me decide if it would make a good career choice for me?
- Can you give me the names of other people who use geospatial technologies in their work?
When you’ve finished the interview, shake hands and thank the person again for meeting with you. Always send a thank you note immediately after your meeting!