Information For Students and New Professionals
BAAMA Connections presents an excellent opportunity for Students and New Professionals to gain insight into the GIS profession, develop the beginnings of a professional network, and build confidence. Informational interviewing is a free and effective way to achieve all these things. Participation in this program does require time, preparation, and follow-through, but we believe it will prove well worth the effort.
IMPORTANT: Connections is not a job placement service. Under no circumstance may you ask a Volunteer Professional for a job.
Why Interview a Volunteer Professional?
Although you have decided on GIS as a profession, it can be difficult to imagine the work and its many forms without having experienced them. Connections provides contacts with Volunteer Professionals who make themselves available to answer your questions, as well guidelines and tips for getting the most out of the informational interview. You probably have questions about the work, its setting, and the skills employers look for. This is the place to get firsthand information, clarify your interests, and begin to decide what direction to take.
Besides having an expert to answer your questions, informational interviewing can be one part of developing an effective network. A network is the group of professionals you develop relationships with over time. It can help answer your questions, whether technical or career-related. A network is a great resource because if one person cannot provide what you need, often that person knows someone who can. Knowing others in the field also makes your work more enjoyable. As is common knowledge, many positions are not filled through job announcements, but through knowing the right people. Having developed a network helps you be in the right place at the right time.
The informational interview provides other benefits as well. It can reveal skills that would be helpful to develop. It helps educate you on issues of current importance to the profession and is good preparation for job interviews. Finally, informational interviewing might help you become more realistic, or perhaps more inspired.
What Does Participating in Connections Entail?
Participating in Connections as a Student or New Professional entails the following:
- Selecting one or two Volunteer Professionals whose experience interests you
- Submitting the Application for Students and New Professionals
- Receiving the requested contact information
- Contacting the Volunteer Professional to arrange the informational interview
- Preparing for the interview
- Conducting the interview
- Sending a thank you email
The suggested format of the informational interview is a face-to-face meeting for a number of reasons. Meeting personally rather than over the phone allows for a richer experience. You make a stronger impression in person, and your relationship will be further developed when you meet again. Interviews are usually conducted at the Volunteer Professional's place of employment, which sometimes leads to opportunities to see the facility and meet other professionals. Finally, a willingness to travel communicates the value you put on the Volunteer Professional's time. However, some Volunteer Professionals prefer to conduct interviews by phone or email.
The two things most appreciated by the Volunteer Professional are a sincere interest and a sense of professionalism. You show your interest by asking thoughtful questions. You can demonstrate your professionalism in a number of ways: dress appropriately, be on time, communicate clearly, use the time wisely, and do not expect more than the person chooses to give. (Appropriate dress depends on you and the setting. "Business casual" is one suggestion.) Preparation is key - you will find many helpful tips in the Informational Interviewing and Sample Materials sections.
We suggest that you send a brief thank you email. This provides an opportunity to demonstrate that you benefited from the meeting, and it will help the Volunteer Professional remember you.