If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before. - J Loren Norris
I believe it was late 2017 when I was first introduced to the term "informational interview"; back then, it felt like a random word compound that got lost among clarifications on an(other) individual course assignment during my Master’s studies. According to our professor’s elaborate explanation and a highly promising syllabus description, the aim of this assignment was to make us, students, understand the value of this type of interviews in collecting insights and gaining a better understanding of the industry we aspired to be part of.
Though I tremendously enjoyed preparing and writing it – I guess that was when my journalism experience kicked in – I hate to admit that this was probably the only class whose learnings I never applied. Upon graduating and for the next few months, my solemn goal was to land my “dream” job in a very specific city of a very specific country, ignoring what that job really entailed; if it fit my interests or personality; what other opportunities were available in that industry; how things worked in the city I was starting my career; and a million other aspects. And that’s how it happened.
Fast forward to spring 2020. Covid hits; work slows down, life as we knew it slows down, and with that, everything else slows down – including personal ambitions. Of course, less commuting and, definitely, less socializing, meant more time; and, in my case, more hours of contemplation. Among personal pondering and career reflections, I realized what my job – the “dream” part was long gone – was lacking: diversity. Diversity in people, job functions, industries, cities, and projects.
The more days and months passed by the more obvious it was that remote work was here to stay – that could be one of the positive (?) outcomes of the “new normal”. So, I thought: if you could work remotely, why only work in one place? Why understand or discover opportunities in that field in the place you live in? Why reach out to people from that region only? Why build relationships with your colleagues only?
Then I rediscovered my aforementioned assignment; this time its purpose totally made sense. I decided to start inviting people to informational interviews to find out what was happening in Europe (I am a self-proclaimed “EU cheerleader”), and not exclusively in the industry I was working in – at that time, education. Then, I took this decision one step further; it could publish them eventually because, if I found the insights of my interviewee useful, then maybe someone with the same interests as me might did too. But, the informational interview would be the starting point; what I really wanted was to connect and build relationships with like-minded individuals. And to some extent, I can say I did! 30-something informational interviews later, I am delighted to admit that I have been lucky enough to not only learn, virtually bond, but collaborate with these people on projects that matter.
Since this piece is meant to be not just an ode to informational interviews but also an introduction to this column, namely Tête-à-tête, here’s what you can expect to find here: me in conversation with people who are working in sectors I find sacrosanct – arts & culture, humanities, education, and social innovation – mainly in Europe. I am curious to find out which cities are championing these matters; what the most urgent societal issues the new generation is trying to combat are; how we can use technology to boost the digital transformation of more traditional industries, such as education, culture, and the arts; how we can create synergies to help each other generate innovative solutions and push the developments in the industries we are working in. My interlocutors discuss their efforts and aspirations to change their industry and, why not?, the face of Europe. I hope I can bring to the spotlight and shed some light on what is currently happening as well as inspire intelligent conversations and collective action.
Do you have any suggestions about who I should interview next? Send them my way!