In my July 11th creative career change coaching session we covered last weeks tasks of a job criteria sheet, finding publications that give me better job options rather than generic job websites, and making a list of questions for informational interviews before applying for jobs.

Then we got in to the meat of how I should approach trying to get these informational appointments, which apparently will involve me being far more forward with strangers than is comfortable.  Gulp.  But I can do it.  I jumped the gun a little and had already contacted one company, Continuum Innovation, as well as one of their employees with a request for just such an interview. My coach suggested I should contact these same people again after a week or so, and find a list of 10 more names in my fields of interest to contact requesting informational interviews.  I plan to find more design strategists to interview, as well as some people in the educational field.

For me hounding twice-contacting strangers, seeking people out, feels very uncomfortable.  My assumption is that I’m imposing or being an irritant.  I very much want to work with cooperative and open people, like myself, but I’m a bit conditioned by my current job to expect unhealthy and discouraging rejections of my overtures.

Then again, that is exactly why I’m going through this process, to get away from just such an unhealthy atmosphere.

I have no doubts about my knowledge, or talents.  I can relate to and talk to almost anybody (who is open and cooperative).  My doubts lie in not trusting the reaction or response I will receive from others, from long experience of that give/receive relationship being straight out of some alternate dimension.  I’ve also been conditioned to expect that if I’m persistent and don’t accept being bullied or steamrolled when what I have to contribute is relevant and helpful, I’ll be labelled as the cause of dissent.

I’ve always half-joked that I cannot be brainwashed, because my opinions and ideas cannot be swayed by force, only by real knowledge and ideas, which I crave.  But that’s mental.  This conditioning feels physical, and I sincerely cannot wait for it to wear off.

Stacy got through this barrier of mine by asking me how I would feel if people contacted me out of the blue for information on Chiropractic or Saudi Arabia. I’d be flattered – my answer. It happens and I’m swift and happy to provide information.  So why, Stacy asked, do I assume I’m imposing or being an irritant by contacting people I’m interested in talking to?  Well…I felt like this in my family as a kid but especially with regards to work now (here’s the kicker – thank you current job) especially if what I’m communicating is accurate, relevant to their/our work or helpful in some other way.

Pavlov’s dog.

Big Gremlin.

hint hint – if this is your work experience, leave.

I haven’t received a reply to either request for interviews I’ve already sent, but I’m trying to remain positive and not assume it’s because they saw this site, read my resume and are still laughing over their coffee at my presumption.  Because I know that’s my gremlin and not reality.

Along with my questions for the interview of my career coach Stacy I posted recently, I also sent the following list of questions I’d come up with for my informational interview.  I have posted them below along with Stacy’s notes in red.  Her primary suggestion was to change my questions to open-ended questions, rather than questions which could be answered with a simple yes/no.

My next step is to rework the list for a final version, putting them in order of importance in case I run out of time in my interviews.  And….my homework is to make a list of ~10 more people to contact.


Questions for Informative Interview: (this set is specific to a design company I want to apply to, but can be modified for any position)

I was inspired to research your company after reading an article about one of your employees who is not an engineer or designer. (or if the interviewer is one of these people…)

  1. Have non-traditional people always been in the picture at Continuum or how did they come about?

Keep it open ended. Ex: How have employees with non-traditional educational and career backgrounds come to be a part of Continuum? Why does Continuum see their contribution as important?

  1. What is your experience, positive or negative, while integrating their (your) knowledge and experiences? Or do all creative minds have equal value, if different methods?

This question is a bit unclear. Are you saying something like: What has been your experience as a contributor with a non-engineering or unique background? – Yes, exactly

  1. In terms of qualifications, perspectives or personalities; in your experience has anybody been a handicapped to progress, and how?

Open ended Ex: How is a creative background an asset and also a hindrance in collaborating and developing ideas?

  1. Would you describe – paint me a picture – of (what to you is) a great work day?
  1. What do you think are the hardest days or aspects of your work?

Hardest in terms of…challenge? Negative experience? – My answer, there are many aspects of our jobs we love, but what to you is the most challenging (in terms of dislike, not difficulty)

  1. What feature of you personally, or your prior experience, serves you best in your field?
  1. Do both aspects (personal, career history) contribute equally, or is there something specific about your history that makes this a great job for you?

Open ended Ex: What are the top 3 reasons this is a great job fit for you?

  1. If work were a board game, which ones would it most resemble?
  1. I find that when I try to explain my ideas to others, half of people understand immediately but half need things explained or outlined entirely differently. Is this a normal scenario in your business? How do you handle this?
  1. Do you feel there is career stability in your field? That it’s strongly established and valued?

Open ended Ex: How would you describe the career stability in your field? What do you see for your field in the next 5 years?

Additional suggestions:

Describe someone who is very successful in his or her role as a strategist or other contributor at Continuum. What is he / she so successful?

If Continuum could hire its ideal employee tomorrow, who would it be? Note: could be a famous / well known person or could describe the attributes of an ideal employee.

What are some ways a person with a diverse background could demonstrate creative ability and value to Continuum in order to be considered for employment?

(After sending your resume / describing your experience): What is the gap between my experience and the qualifications I would need to have to be an attractive employee for Continuum? What do you recommend I study or gain experience in?

What would you ask, in the same situation? I’m very curious.

2 Responses to Coaching Session #10 – Informational Interview

  1. Love your blog re-do! I’ve also been through very similar coaching – a former boss is now a life and career coach and I followed very similar process. Suddenly seeing the gremlins was very … eye-opening! And it did push me to uncomfortable places but in the end the discomfort was worth it and I grew. I’m rooting for you to find the same thing too!

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