How Your Son/Daughter Can Get the Most out of Winter Break

By: CSB/SJU Career Services

Winter break is an ideal time for career exploration and building a professional network. Informational interviews and job shadow experiences provide the opportunity to do just that. With only a few weeks of break, these can require a short time commitment, yet yield significant results. 

What is an information interview or job shadow?

Informational interviews are a way to obtain information about careers by talking with a person currently working in that field. Many information interviews are conducted in person, but the conversation may also be over the phone. A typical information interview lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. 

A job shadow can be done on its own or as a next step after an information interview. A job shadow will allow your student to observe the work environment and job duties of a particular career. Shadow experiences can range from one day, to a few days, to a week or longer, depending on the individual and the occupation being explored.  

Why are these valuable?

First and second year students generally pursue information interviews and job shadow experiences to learn more about careers and to determine if the career is a good fit for them. Some students will also use this information to help decide on a major field of study. Third and fourth year students can certainly receive the same benefits as younger students, but also use these opportunities to network and make connections within the career field of their choice. It is not uncommon for students to learn of internship or full-time job opportunities through information interviews and job shadow experiences. 

How can your student find people to interview or shadow?

Here are three good tactics your student can use:

  • Talk with friends, relatives, parents of friends or neighbors involved in the field. They can talk with your student about their occupations or refer your student to a potential contact.
  • Contact Saint Ben's and/or Saint John's alumni through the Career Alumni NEtworking (CANE) files which are located in the Career Resource Centers on both campuses. These alums look forward to talking with current students and answering their questions about possible careers or fields of study.
  • Professors and Career Counselors may be able to suggest names of people to call. 

What can students do to prepare?

  • Learn and read as much as they can about the career.  An easy place they can start is the Career Services website under the "Exploring Majors" or "Exploring Careers" section. The Career Resource Centers on the SJU and CSB campuses also house lending libraries with information on various industries and career fields.
  • Write down questions that arise during research and take these questions to the information interview. Information interview questions should be open-ended, starting with words like "how," "what," "why," "when," and "in what way."
  • Visit the Interviewing Tips section of the Career website for a list of potential questions to ask during an informational interview. You can also view an online workshop and learn tips on contacting and following-up with contacts on the site.