You can quickly gain first-hand knowledge about a job by interviewing a person who does that job. This is called an informational interview because you're only seeking information, not a job. Most informational interviews last no longer than 20 minutes.
Use informational interviews to augment your research with a first-hand account of an occupation's rewards, requirements, and frustrations. In a face-to-face meeting, a person will give you frank advice and subtle knowledge about an occupation and its work environment that you will never read in a book. The interaction will also give you an important networking contact and increase your self-confidence for future interviews, career fairs, and professional events.
To find a contact for an informational interview, first try your social network. Ask friends, relatives, and neighbors for suggestions. You can also contact your academic department or the alumni office for the names of former students in relevant careers. Professional associations often have region-specific directories you can use. Finally, you can simply look up a particular organization in the phone book or online and contact them for the names of employees who might be willing to be interviewed.
Another option is to search for an interview candidate in the Alumni Directory. Once logged in, using your IU username and passphrase, use the "Advanced Search" feature to search for Alumni by organization name, IU major, job title and more.
Don't be shy about contacting a stranger for an informational interview. People generally love to talk about themselves and their work, and most are happy to offer their time. Once you've scheduled an interview, prepare by researching the organization and compiling a list of interesting questions—ones that can't be answered by any other kind of research.
For more detailed tips and information, come to the Center for a drop-in advising.