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Utilizing Informational Interviews to Augment Your Health Education Career Goals

Health education and promotion is a broad field, stretching across many different career sectors, from hospitals and healthcare clinics, to community organizations, non-profits, and insurance companies, and into many areas of local, state, and federal government. Health education specialists can wear many different hats and function under so many varying job titles.

So as an emerging health education specialist, how do you know where you will fit in with your interests, skills, and abilities? You have a degree, perhaps even a little experience, but what is your next step?

Informational interviews can provide the answer. An information interview is defined as: an informal conversation you can have with someone working in an area of interest to you. It is an effective research tool and is best done after completing preliminary online research. It is not a job interview, and the objective is not to find job openings. However, the experience can be invaluable in helping you to create contacts, find out real world information about jobs in your field of expertise, what typical duties include within that organization and role, and what level of experience you need to complete tasks with a strong level of competence.

According to the University of California, Berkley, there are six key steps to the process of informational interviewing:

1. Research

  • Do some initial research on different organizations and what their mission are within that career field. Narrow it down to the top two or three organizations that interest you the most.

2. Identify People

  • Using the organization’s webpages, LinkedIn profiles, and ‘contact us’ research, identify individuals who you could reach out to about a potential informational interview.
  • If you have any personal contacts – great! Now is the time to network, and ask around. Your contact may not be the ideal person to interview, but odds are, they will have a suggestion for you.

3. Interview Preparation

4. Initiate Contact

  • Contact the person by email or phone, or through LinkedIn and use a thoughtful subject line.
  • Mention how you got his or her name, whether it was through a web search or a personal contact.
  • Briefly describe yourself.  Emphasize that you are looking for information, not a job.
  • Be concise, and don’t ramble.
  • Acknowledge their accomplishments
  • Directly ask for help and be very considerate about their time. Since you are the one asking for help, you want to be the most flexible in your scheduling.

5. Conduct the Interview

  • If i is a Zoom meeting, make sure to dress neatly and professionally
  • Be right on time and be prepared to take notes 
  • Restate that your objective is to get information and advice, not a job.
  • Give a brief overview of yourself and your education and/or work background.
  • Be prepared to direct the interview, but also let the conversation flow naturally and encourage the interviewee to do most of the talking.
  • Respect the person's time. Limit the meeting to the agreed-upon timeframe.
  • Ask the person if you may contact them again in the future with other questions.
  • Ask for names of other people to meet so as to gain different perspectives.

6. Follow-up

  • Compile your notes and come up with some next steps. Are there new contacts gained to reach out to? Courses or webinars you should take? Websites to visit? Make an action plan
  • Compose a thank-you note and send it within 1-2 days to express your appreciation for the time and information given to you.
  • Keep in touch with the person, especially if you had a particularly nice interaction; let them know that you followed up on their advice and the outcome. This person could become an important part of your network.

If the process of informational interviewing sounds intimidating, know that the conducting this kind of exercise will provide amazing experience when it comes to an actual interview for a job position. Since it is NOT an actual job interview, you will be able to quell some of your jitters about the outcome. In addition, know that one of the Eight Areas of Responsibility that Certified Health Education Specialists adhere to is advocating for the profession of health education and promotion. This means placing value on the CHES® or MCHES® credential, and a willingness to assist emerging specialists as they gain entrance to the field.

Berkeley Career Center- 

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