Sunday, August 05, 2007

Informational Interviews

Last week I had my two year anniversary at my current museum. It struck me how long it really takes to get comfortable in a situation. I've been there two years and in some ways I only now feel like I have some traction there. But, I also realize that I am not going to be in this position forever. So, like everyone else, I have been trying to force myself to do some networking. For me, networking is one of those things that I do because I know it's good for me and not because I enjoy it. So, I decided to begin networking with people who I just find interesting even if their careers don't follow a similar pattern as mine.

One day as I was looking through some of the executive profiles on our museum and foundation's website, I realized how little I knew some of our managers. Interested in learning more about management and fundraising, last week I struck up a conversation with our Senior Vice President by the microwave. After chatting a bit, I asked him how he got into the museum field and how he has worked his way up the ladder. We talked for a bit longer and then he invited me to discuss it at length over lunch some time. He asked me to arrange a time with his assistant and then we'd meet one day at noon. My instincts were to say, "that's okay, I don't want to bother you," but instead I decided that I would do it. In fact, I made an appointment with him immediately because I knew I would only procrastinate doing it.

I really didn't know what to expect from our lunch or what the heck two people who didn't really know each other would talk about for an hour. So, I decided to do a little bit of research both on my VP and how to do an "informational interview." ( I am glad that I did a little investigation because it helped guide the conversation and helped me decide what I wanted to know from him. In the end, I found that he was a very interesting man with a diverse array of experience--much more closely in line with what I do that what I had formally assumed. He had some great stories and perhaps the most important advice he shared was to diversify my experience and to stay open to interesting career possibilities. In the end, we spent an hour and a half at lunch and he offered to continue the dialogue in the future. So, all and all it was highly positive experience.

I guess this made me think of some of the ongoing dialogue that I have heard here and elsewhere about the need for professional mentors. I doubt that this experience will lead to a long term mentorship, but I don't think that is necessary or important at this stage. In fact, more interactions like this might be as or more beneficial than a set mentorship. Has anyone else had an informational interview before? Was is helpful or pointless? Was there anything you or your interviewee said or did that made your experience more worthwhile?

1 comment:

Courtney said...

I don't have much to add myself, but really like this train of thought and hope some other folks out there have more suggestions!

My recent move across the country has got me thinking more and more about the value of informational interviews, too: I was pretty knowledgeable about the museum ed community in NYC by the time I left it, but know very little about my new community here in Seattle, and do want to craft some opportunities to learn from some already established professionals on this coast.