Here’s a follow-up to last week’s post about information interviews and how they can be an important part of a job search strategy.
Heather Krasna describes herself as a career coach, author, and speaker, specializing in finding “meaningful careers.”
She’s a strong believer in the usefulness of information interviews in the job seeking process as a way of building up a personal network while expanding your knowledge about organizations in the field you wish to enter.
At heatherkrasna.com (April 8/11), she discusses the etiquette that governs such meetings.
As we noted last week, information interviews are not intended to be about getting a job, directly, but about finding out about how things work in an organization that aligns with your interests and values.
Two things that Heather says to remember are
- the importance of you setting the tone as an information-seeker
- remembering that it is your job to keep the conversation flowing
She then goes on to suggest the kinds of questions you can ask at an information interview in order to maximize the brief time that you have asked for when setting up this meeting.
Go to her website to read, “Questions to Ask During Informational Interviews” — Heather has 18 suggested questions and conversational openings to help you prepare.
I continue to be amazed at the generosity of the career coaches I meet online. While they provide for-fee individual counselling, they also offer a great deal of free advice online, that’s available to the rest of us at the push of a button. Why not take advantage of the kindness of strangers when it comes to online coaching?
Earlier this month, we shared news about the launch of MyGradSkills.ca — a free online learning platform designed to help graduate students at Ontario universities develop professional skills – no matter what profession they may choose.
The platform offers graduate students access to 18 free, self-paced modules on topics such as research management, converting a CV to a resumé, mentoring undergrads, mental health and wellness, and intellectual property.
The site developers must be pleased to see such strong interest in the early going. Clearly students are voting with their feet in flocking to this site.
According to Allison Sekuler, associate vice-president and dean of graduate studies at McMaster University and one of the developers of the site, the goal of the platform is to give graduate students the opportunity to develop the skills they need to succeed “both in their graduate programs and beyond.”
She notes that, in her experience, many graduate students are “afraid to tell their faculty advisers that they don’t want to go on in academia.” Yet it is unrealistic for every graduate student to aspire to academic positions in a poor academic job market and “frankly,” she says, “a lot of graduate students don’t want those jobs anymore” anyway.
I think that Sue Horton, former associate provost of graduate studies at the University of Waterloo, is right in seeing MyGradSkills.ca as a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, on-campus career services, as indicated in Samson’s article.
However, it is good to know that so many students are sampling this new site and figuring out how to use it to their advantage. Self-reliance is a soft skill in and of itself, after all.
“Information Interview” is a term coined by Richard Bolles many years ago in his perennial job-search handbook What Colour is your Parachute? (Berkeley, CA: 10 Speed Press). By “perennial,” I mean that Bolles has put out a new edition of this book almost every year since its first edition in 1972 and is currently at work on the 2015 edition: in one of his recent tweets (April 25/14), writes: “It’s that time of year again — working on What Color Is Your Parachute? 2015 ed. with all-new updated research!” He is both sensible and indefatigable, an enviable combination.
The information interview is just that: an interview you request with someone who is working in a field that you are interested in – in order to find out what you can about this kind of work, its greatest satisfactions (or challenges), and pathways to attaining it.
You are interviewing in order to make a networking contact, but first and foremost to find out what you would like to know about the kind of work this individual is doing. An information interview is not an attempt to wangle a job or a job interview from the person whose time you have requested. Instead you are looking for a good conversation that will provide advice and research leads as you continue your job search.
Many successful people will quite happily make time for this kind of a conversation if you mean it when you say you are interested in meeting them, are looking for information about their field, will take only a half-hour of their time, and can meet at their convenience.
For further advice, you might take a look at GradHacker columnist KD Shives’s post, “The Informational Interview: The Tool for Taking Your Career to the Next Level” (posted January 31/14).
What I especially like about this piece is Katie’s emphasis on casting a wide net, on doing your research and preparing some questions before you take up anyone’s time – and taking care to observe the time limits – i.e. if you’ve asked for 30 minutes, finish in 30 minutes!
Earlier this week, MyGradSkills.ca was launched to provide all Ontario graduate students with a set of free online professional skills training tools.
The Ontario Consortium for Graduate Professional Skills, a group of seven Ontario universities, developed the initiative and funding for the project was provided from the Ontario government.
According to a press release from the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), by using their university email accounts students can now “log in to view 18 short, self-paced training units.” Topics include how to write a resume, how to conduct a job search, the art of entrepreneurship, teaching and learning, and academic and professional communications.
MyGradSkills.ca is designed to meet the needs of “those interested in a career in academia, as well as those seeking to put their credentials to use in business, government or non-profit organizations.”
The COU press release quoted PhD student Coleen Even, of the University of Waterloo (one of the universities involved in the consortium), who says:
“One of the real advantages of this modular program is that the modules are self-selected (you choose what to use) and can be pursued on a students’ own time and in relation to their own schedules. As graduate students, we don’t always have time for in-person workshops — we’re often immersed in research, traveling for field work or conferences, and teaching undergraduate students. So being able to access this sort of information online is a real plus.”
Allison Sekuler, Associate Vice-President and Dean of Graduate Studies at McMaster University and past chair of COU’s Ontario Council on Graduate Studies, led the initiative. In a post on the MyGradSkills.ca blog, Allison invites students to share feedback about the modules and provide ideas on future courses and site content.
For those of us dedicated to graduate student professional development, this new initiative is welcome and gratifying. It represents an important consensus on the part of Ontario universities about the need for professional training for graduate students, and demonstrates the willingness of institutional partners to invest in providing skill-building opportunities for graduate students.
It will be interesting to see how students respond to the site and its course offerings