Author: Graduate School at the University of South Carolina

We are back – with a lot to offer in spring 2018!

We are back – with a lot to offer in spring 2018!

Welcome to our new graduate students – and welcome back to all of our nearly 7,000 graduate students at UofSC! We hope you had a chance to recharge over the winter break, and your spring semester is off to a great start.

We are back too – with a lot to offer this spring semester!

Each Friday during the academic year, starting TODAY for spring 2018, we will post content related to professional development. On “Professional Development Fridays,” we hope that you will check out our posts on Facebook and Instagram, tweets on Twitter, videos on our YouTube channel, Linked In, and our blog posts written by UofSC faculty, staff, and graduate students as well as alumni – like this one! (Shameless plug to take a look at the ones posted last year, which were great!)

Here is our line-up – so far – for spring 2018:

  • Graduate Civic Scholars Program: Information Webinar on January 19 and In-person Information Session on January 25. Applications are due on February 9.
  • Writing Your Teaching Philosophy: Part 1 is on January 26 and Part 2 is on February 23, organized with the Center for Teaching Excellence.
  • Carolina Leadership Week: January 29-February 3, check out Graduate School social media for perspectives on leadership from graduate students, organized with the Graduate Student Association.
  • Shut Up and Write!: This was a very popular offering in the fall. We will have two dates for Shut Up and Write! in the spring – February 9 and March 9, organized with the Writing Center
  • Prepare for Success with Goal Setting and Time Management Skills: Fatimah Williams Castro, PhD of Beyond the Tenure Track will deliver what is sure to be an informative webinar on February 16.
  • Start Smart: The financial literacy and salary negotiation workshops will be offered on February 21 and April 23, organized with the Student Success Center.
  • Resume and CV Workshop: This workshop with Claudia Benitez-Nelson, PhD and Alan White, PhD will be on March 2.
  • Professional Journeys: This webinar was rescheduled from the fall semester and will feature graduate alumni of UofSC on March 23.
  • 6th Annual Graduate Career Consortium Master’s and Doctoral Virtual Career Fair: This online career fair is on March 28 and will link graduate students with prospective employers, organized with the Career Center.
  • Graduate Student Appreciation Week is April 2-6. Stay tuned for more details on daily programming.
  • Discover USC is on April 20. Stay tuned for more details on being a part of the University’s research day.
  • Navigating the Academic Publishing World: This seminar with Robert McKeown, PhD will be in-person and available via Facebook Live.

Registration is required for all events. Check the Graduate School’s online calendar for registration links. Space is limited for many in-person events. All #GRADprofdev webinars are recorded; register to receive the link to view the recording if you are unable to attend. Please remember to be a good neighbor. If you have registered for a #GRADprofdev event and are unable to attend, please change your RSVP to allow another graduate student the opportunity to participate.

In addition to our professional development programming, I want to share additional professional development resources available to you as a graduate student at UofSC. UofSC has institutional memberships to the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity and National Postdoctoral Association. Both of these organizations feature professional development resources for graduate students, and you can capitalize on UofSC’s memberships by signing up using your UofSC email address. Imagine PhD, a free online career exploration and planning tool for PhD students and postdoctoral scholars in the humanities and social sciences, launched in fall 2017 and offers a wide-range of resources for graduate students. Lastly, through the Cornell Graduate School, the Productive Writer listserv is designed for graduate students who are writing their proposal, thesis, dissertation, fellowship applications, or other manuscripts. Subscribers receive email messages every other week with writing tips, strategies and encouragement to help you start, persist (and endure), and complete your academic writing projects.

Because it is important for us to hear from you, the week of January 29, you will receive a link to complete a brief survey on current professional development offerings as well as your professional development needs. Your participation will be very helpful as we plan for the future and to best meet the needs of our graduate students.

As always, I welcome your feedback on how we can improve professional development offerings for graduate students. And, I hope to see you this semester at one of our events!

Dr. Heather Brandt is associate dean for professional development in the Graduate School and associate professor in the department of health promotion, education, and behavior in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Brandt received a PhD (public health), MSPH, and graduate certificates in gerontology and women’s studies from the University of South Carolina – a four-time alumna. However, she also is always a Hawkeye too, born and raised in Iowa and a graduate of the University of Iowa.

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Contact us at

Professional Journeys: T.J. Geary

Professional Journeys: T.J. Geary

While I have always enjoyed learning and can appreciate a broad-based liberal arts education, I admit that I viewed some of my undergraduate classes as boxes to be checked on the way to graduation. Graduate school provided me with the opportunity to truly pursue a passion, gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in a chosen field, and always encouraged me to take things a step further in the pursuit of answers.

If you want to get the most out of your graduate school education, I would offer three primary takeaways:

Writing: I recently participated in a hiring process for police chief position. Part of the assessment were a series of essay questions. A university professor who served on the hiring panel told me that my scores on the written assessment set me apart from the group and asked me in the interview where I learned to write. I replied, “I’m not sure I can pinpoint one place where I learned to write, but I know I had a lot of practice in grad school.” Whether it is a thesis, a publication, or simply frequent papers for coursework, graduate school is the place to hone your craft as a writer. Take the time to learn from feedback. Each red mark is a lesson learned. This skill can translate into almost any profession and will serve you well for the rest of your life.

Critical Thinking: The question “why?” has plagued academics and parents of toddlers for millennia. It is also the basis of greater understanding. The critical thinking skills learned and practiced in graduate school allow for students to dig deeper into a topic of study. These skills can be used to challenge old ideas, unproven assertions, and the status quo. I have made a career of using this question to improve processes, to set priorities, and to change and formulate culture. It is a question that should be asked frequently in business, government, and higher education. It gives direction. It gives purpose. And it effects change.

Relationships: While I have been happily married to a former criminal justice classmate for over 15 years, that is not the type of relationship to which I am referring. In graduate school I found myself surrounded by classmates, colleagues, and mentors who came from a variety of backgrounds and experiences but also shared my interest in criminology, the criminal justice system, and public policy. Being able to examine an issue through the lens of another always expanded my own understanding of it. Many of the relationships have endured both time and space. Some have paid dividends beyond friendship and camaraderie. One of my adjunct instructors recruited me to my first full time job in the field, later recruited me to another agency for a promotion, and has since become one of my mentors. There are other leaders in my field who I have known and worked alongside my entire professional life because we met in a class in graduate school. Take advantage of the lively discussions in class, study groups, and networking events, and remember that each person you meet may one day play a large role in your professional development.

For me, graduate school was a step, albeit a significant one, on a path of learning. Never mistake a terminal degree for a terminal education. People, interests, and industries all change. Whether it’s attending a conference, reading a book, or embracing the opportunity for a new experience at work, learning comes in many forms. If you treat your graduate education as a firm foundation, you will find that you can build a skyscraper atop it. Commit to being a lifelong learner, and never pass up an opportunity to know more or understand something better.

Major T.J. Geary received his Master of Criminal Justice degree from the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina in December 2002. He worked as a graduate research assistant on a federally-funded evaluation of the Lexington County Domestic Court and was awarded the Graduate Student of the Year and Outstanding Thesis Award for his department. Upon graduation, he began his full-time law enforcement career with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department before returning to UofSC in 2006 as a sergeant with the UofSC Division of Law Enforcement and Safety. Working his way up through various ranks, he currently serves as the Operations Bureau Commander. A 2012 graduate of the FBI National Academy, Maj. Geary’s advanced coursework there earned him a graduate certificate in Criminal Justice Education from the University of Virginia. He is also a Certified Public Manager (CPM) and a graduate of the Police Executive Research Foundation’s Senior Management Institute for Police. He is an instructor and subject matter expert for VALOR, a national, federally-funded officer safety initiative and serves on the Board of Directors for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Association.

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Email

Professional Journeys: Kurt Hoberg

Professional Journeys: Kurt Hoberg

Trust the Practice

Although I studied finance as an undergraduate, that degree wasn’t necessary to see that an MFA in creative writing promised zero future income. In fact, the MFA opens very few professional doors. Although it’s a terminal degree, the possibility of getting a tenure track job is nonexistent without a book (or two). Jobs in publishing are uber-competitive and low-paying. God bless J.K. Rowling, but no theme park will be erected around a Kurt Hoberg story. So, upon starting the three-year program, my focus wasn’t on the degree finish line. And certainly not on whatever was to come after.

Any art requires you to develop and abide by a practice. This was my primary goal in graduate school. On the list of daily habits, I wanted writing to rank somewhere between bathing and coffee-drinking (mileage may vary). There were a number of virtues: because I knew I’d write the next day and the day after, there wasn’t any reason to beat myself up for a lackluster writing sesh. How many times have you ever stared your reflection down and growled, “You gotta make this morning’s teeth-brushing count, damnit.”? Also, as a result of this dedication, the stories I submitted for writing workshop every semester weren’t a spasm of nervous deadline energy. I am a writer, so it goes without saying that I think those stories were all still terrible—I’d like to burn most of them—but the product wasn’t so important. The journey, not the destination. You reach the opposite shore in every step you take.

The real fruits of the practice? Upon graduating, and throughout the transition into “real life,” i.e. tenuously employed life, I was still writing. Granted, I missed a few more sessions than I would have during my student days. But the grittiness on the enamel and the chunks caught between molars were intolerable. It wasn’t hard to sit down in the chair and write.

Writing will always be the second job for which I’m condemned to get up early or skip a night out. And because no one will see those many hours of toil and because there will be days and weeks that clanking words together appears such an epic waste of time, writing will be the easiest thing to stop doing. And that’s why having established that practice is essential. It is the thing that I do without debate. We all suffer from decision fatigue; it’s why some people just wear jeans and black t-shirts, eat the same bland thing morning and night; and so if you have to decide not only when and where you should write, but if you feel like writing, you’ll almost always choose against it. And only when you’re in the tightest spot of your life—coming off a ruined relationship, or procrastinating about some major report for that necessary evil called a day job—will the writing desk suddenly seem attractive. And that’s no way to cultivate fulfillment, let alone success.

Of course, our practices are job or field-dependent. Feel free to replace “writing” in this post with “research” or “networking.” Regardless, it’s critical to determine the most important activity (and contradictorily the one you’re most loathe to do), and orient your schedule around it. These two or (gulp) seven years are an initiation into a career—a formative time—and they’ll hammer your habits into practices. Whether you’re intentional about them or not.

Kurt Hoberg earned his MFA in creative writing from the University of South Carolina in 2017. He’s currently an adjunct professor at UofSC.  

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Email

Learning More about LinkedIn

Learning More about LinkedIn

For blogs, such as this one, I like to go to the users to get the real story on possible professional development tools to recommend to graduate students. I am an occasional user, and by no means a regular one. I have found value in using LinkedIn to network with colleagues, but I do not use LinkedIn often enough to reap the full benefits. I needed to talk to other users to learn more.

To get the real story, I conducted a rigorous study in only a few hours by posting on my personal Facebook page the following questions about LinkedIn.

Do you use LinkedIn? Why or why not? If you do, what is the best part about it to you?

{I jest about the rigor, but I received quite a lot of feedback in a short time.}

My questions resulted in some people who did not find value in LinkedIn. This could have to do with how LinkedIn is being used and the time required to take full advantage of LinkedIn’s offerings. Admittedly, some people do not check LinkedIn frequently but will accept your request to connect when they do. Some people find the trolls to be too much (i.e. excessive headhunter inquiries, people trying to sell x, y, and z). And, there are no memes.

While some people did not find LinkedIn to be valuable, some did and had excellent recommendations for how LinkedIn may be useful.

Sarah Gareau, DrPH alumna of UofSC, had advice for how students can use LinkedIn as a tool.

“I use it to connect with national leaders but not for professional advancement… I encourage my students to use it as their online resume and to link an online portfolio to their profile.”

Zenica Chatman, master’s alumna of UofSC in integrated marketing, talked about how LinkedIn can connect you to thought leaders in your field.

“I definitely use LinkedIn as a way to stay abreast of trends in the industry and to get great advice from thought leaders.”

{We like this advice, but we noticed that you need a profile photo, Ms. Chatman.}

Jamie Ritchey, PhD, alumna of UofSC, laid out the benefits in four points.

“1. I like to review the job postings to ensure our hiring is competitive. 2. It’s a more professional alternative to connect with colleagues than my Facebook page. 3. The articles that pop up in my feed are different than Facebook and some are pretty good. 4. It’s a place to put in a snapshot of my CV for quick reference.”

Shalanda Bynum, PhD alumna of UofSC, touted the value of LinkedIn for staying connected as well as for identifying employment opportunities.

“Professional networking – it’s a good platform to stay connected professionally with colleagues from my previous employments and to connect with new ones. It also provides an opportunity to meet with like-minded professionals, in-person, through local professional events. Lastly, the platform enables me to connect colleagues to those who might be able to provide assistance with professional opportunities, such as employment and fellowships.”

{Great insights, but we noticed that you need a profile photo too, Dr. Bynum.}

Aaron Guest, MSW and MPH alumnus of UofSC, focused on connection.

“I primarily use it to connect with individuals who I would like to remain connected to, but we are not on the level (nor do I have a desire) to have them on my Facebook or Twitter. I have found it to be a great way to ‘stay in the know’ about where people are at, where they are going, what work they are doing, etc. It also helps when I meet someone, and I cannot necessarily remember their name [that] I can often find them through their connections.”

Speaking of using LinkedIn to find people and check out people, Ryal Curtis, senior social media specialist at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, noted the benefits of using LinkedIn to check out people to know with whom they are connected before or after meeting someone.

The general sentiment about frequent users of LinkedIn and a main benefit career-wise seems to be: “If you’re trying to advance in your career and are not on LinkedIn, you are missing out,” to quote Anton Gunn, MSW alumnus of UofSC.

The Graduate School has a brand new LinkedIn account. It is only fair that we practice what we are preaching and let you decide if this online networking tool offers value to you.

LinkedIn certainly is not new, but it is somewhat underutilized by a large group of job seekers – graduate students. LinkedIn seems to be especially important when searching for positions outside of academic settings and hold value for presenting your professional self while networking with others. An added benefit is the ability to connect with thought leaders in your field. Your time as graduate students is valuable, so if you are going to use your LinkedIn profile, make sure to check out recommendations, such as a recent essay from Inside Higher Ed on using LinkedIn as a career tool.

Let us know what you think about LinkedIn and how you have used it as a graduate student. Comment on our blog, Facebook post, tweet, etc.

Dr. Heather Brandt is associate dean for professional development in the Graduate School and associate professor in the department of health promotion, education, and behavior in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Email

Professional Journeys: Andrew Kettler

Professional Journeys: Andrew Kettler

Cheese Rolling at the Bazaar: Abstract Advice for Doctoral Candidates in the Humanities

 Retaining confidence on the present humanities job market can involve quite the application of cognitive dissonance, intentional narcissism, and false consciousness. In both PhD programs and at the employment carnival, remembering the original desire that an academic once had to compete in a university system that is consistently both underfunded and critiqued as superfluous can test the very ethical principles that many researchers first applied when writing their graduate school applications.

The anti-intellectual environment of the public sphere frequently asserts that many in the humanities are victims of an egg-head syndrome that prevents pursuing tangible goals. I regularly ponder, how can scholars who want to pursue humanities education engage a public sphere that often argues their intellect is wasteful, unnecessary, and out-of-touch? What is an academic supposed to do when economic incentives to remain in the academy are declining, the student population often resists any knowledge that questions their own beliefs, and the public increasingly finds truth more from emotional hearsay on the anonymous internet than with veritable facts and rigorous methodology?

For many of us in the first few years of our academic careers, we are forced to bounce. I have recently found myself away from family in another country, and am grateful for the academic opportunity in that land to the North, even as I am disconnected. Like a wheel of cheese down Cooper’s Hill, the early career academic must take each knot of dirt and grass in their path to spin off in whatsoever a direction the job market leads. Ten years on a research project, climbing as a Sisyphus into impenetrable historiographies, false hypotheses, and funding quagmires, led many to the top of a graduate school mountain. A brief morning on that summit, receiving a diploma to become a PhD, truly meant something, and will mean something to those still pushing their substantial academic stones.

The PhD is an accomplishment that culminates years of educational pursuit, social sacrifice, and consistently virtuous behavior. However, for many, staring off that mountaintop often leads to the sight of an abysmal market below. And, as the cheese on the hill, many of us roll quickly down, without agency, only hoping that some university will grasp before the bottom of the chasm sends us back to the missing metaphors of parent’s basements, friend’s couches, or psychiatrist’s lounges. The different personal, social, and ethical goals pursued to become PhDs may never come to fruition. There is no magical thinking, vision board, or law of attraction that will make academic dreams come true. There is no Secret in the world that outshines meritocracy or materialism. Instead, we have only ourselves to ponder. Accordingly, what is the best thing to do for an early career academic facing underemployment, a lack of employment, or the crisis of giving up moral principles to enter particular employment?

Hold on to ethics. The flights of anti-intellectualism may have reached to the highest offices in this country, but that is only a brief layover. Hold on to pride. Retain confidence in who you are as a person, in the work you have created, in that original hope that you could change the world for the better. Do not compromise who you are because you fear unemployment. Find always that original hope that started your path to a doctorate. Rediscover those social truths that prize research, teaching, and the importance of intellect, even as some may assert that intelligence is a waste, your project is not right for this institution, or you just do not have the right experience.

Make your work matter.

Never betray your ethical self.

And, in the end, you will find the place you were meant for in this majestic, meritocratic, spiritual, divisive, honest, and hopeful conglomerate called the academy.

Andrew Kettler received his doctorate from the History Department at the University of South Carolina in May 2017. He researches the use of olfactory language in the making of racial, class, and gendered metaphors that were used to assert forms of state, religious, and patriarchal power during the Enlightenment. Andrew has recently published some of these original findings in Senses and Society and the Journal of American Studies. During the 2016-2017 academic year, Andrew completed graduate research using funds provided from the Bilinski Educational Foundation. For the 2017-2018 academic year, Andrew is serving as Assistant Professor and Early American History Fellow at University College, University of Toronto. In spring 2018, Andrew will continue monograph research as a Mayers Residential Fellow at the Huntington Library and a Center for New World Comparative Studies Fellow at the John Carter Brown Library. His manuscript, “Odor and Power in the Americas,” focuses on the importance of aromatic class consciousness in the making of Atlantic resistance to the racialized olfactory discourses of state, religious, and slave masters.

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Email

Speaking from Experience: The Many Benefits of Informational Interviews

Speaking from Experience: The Many Benefits of Informational Interviews

As you make plans for the next step in your career, how can you narrow down the thousands of job listings out there to prioritize the ones that are right for you? How do you know if a company or university is going to be a good fit for your personality? Do you know what the day-to-day responsibilities are of the jobs you are considering? Informational interviews can help you answer all three of these questions.

So what is an informational interview? An informational interview is an informal conversation between an employee and a job seeker (you!) where the job seeker learns more about the employee’s company and/or specific role.

An informational interview is NOT a job interview, and it is NOT the time for you to ask for a job. It IS a chance for you to get inside information about a job in much greater depth and detail than you can get from a job description or company website, and it IS an opportunity for you to build rapport with someone who may be able to assist your job search in the future.

Having a better idea about what a job interview is (and is not), how do you set up an informational interview? Just ask! Most people are happy to share their experience and talk about their work since – unlike asking for a referral or a job interview – there is no pressure on either party. If you are considering X job and/or company Y, the first step is to see if you already know someone to interview. This could be a former classmate, a friend of a friend, someone you met at a conference, etc. Once you identify someone, send them a brief email reminding them how you know each other (if you don’t know them very well) and politely asking to set up a time to talk further. Here is an example:

Hi John,

It was great talking with you last month at the AHA conference. If I remember correctly from our conversation at the reception, you work as an X at company Y. As I plan the next step in my career, company Y is one that I am very interested in learning more about. If you can spare a few minutes next week, would you be willing to share some of your experiences at Y and specifically working as an X? I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee at your convenience.

Best regards,


If you don’t already know someone in your target role/company, don’t worry! In order to find interviewees in the first place, LinkedIn is an incredibly valuable tool. In fact, some of the most enjoyable informational interviews that I’ve had have been with people that I had never spoken outside of email or LinkedIn before our phone call. Simply search LinkedIn for employees of company Y, look for people that have X job and share something in common (e.g., graduated from the same school, hold the same degree, pursued similar research, etc.), and send them a brief, direct message. Here is an example:

Hi Heather,

I came across your profile as someone who also has a PhD in Biomedical Engineering and now is an X at Y. I’m finishing up my PhD in BME now, and I’m very interested in a career in X. If you have a few minutes, would you be willing to share some of your experiences?



Ideally, you will be able to meet in person, but a 15 minute phone call can be great if you don’t live in the same city as the person you are interviewing. Regardless, now that you have done the hard work of finding someone to talk with and scheduling a meeting, it’s time for the fun part.

So, what do you talk about during an informational interview? Remember, the overarching purpose is to learn more about a company and/or a specific role to determine whether it might be a good fit for your career, so you should try to have a discussion that will help you make that determination. Depending on how comfortable you are with leading a conversation with someone you don’t know well, you will probably want to have several questions prepared that you can ask your interviewee. There is no “correct” list of questions to ask; it could vary widely depending on what you already know about the role/company, your relationship with the interviewee, etc., but here are a few questions that I find to be generally applicable:

  • Could you describe a typical day or common responsibilities as X?
  • What led you to a career doing X?
  • What does it take to be successful as X at company Y?
  • What is the work culture like at company Y?
  • What is the most difficult part about doing X?
  • What is the career trajectory like for an X at company Y?
  • What advice do you have for someone interested in a career in X at company Y?

This is just a sample of potential questions you could ask during an informational interview. The specific questions you ask should be based on your interests, your background, the interviewee’s background, and research into the role/company you are interested in. Even if you do not write down any specific questions, you should still do background research so that you do not waste your interviewee’s time by asking questions that, for example, could easily be found on a company’s website.

Also – and pay close attention because this is very important – you DO NOT want the person you are talking with to feel like they are being interrogated. You DO want the conversation to flow and be just that – a conversation. If your interviewee seems particularly excited about a certain topic and starts going into more detail than you were expecting, great! Take the opportunity to probe a little deeper into that topic and gain greater insight. Don’t worry if it means you don’t get to every single question you had planned; this is usually a good sign that you are building rapport with the interviewee and that they are enjoying the conversation.

If you decide that their particular role/company would be a good fit, the person you just met with could become a valuable member of your network in terms of helping you get referral for a job, so you want to make sure that you have left a good impression. Ideally, the informational interview should be a positive experience for all involved. You should leave with a better understand of whether or not that role/company will be a good fit for you, having learned information that can only come from an insider, and the interviewee should leave having had a pleasant conversation about his or her work experience with someone who asked thoughtful questions and was genuinely interested in what he or she had to say.

David Prim is a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering at the University of South Carolina.

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Email

The Informational Interview: What It Is and How to Make the Most of It

The Informational Interview: What It Is and How to Make the Most of It

As you consider the next step after your graduate degree, remember the informational interview – an informal conversation with a professional in a position of interest about the field, their career path, and/or the organization they work for. Although the purpose is not to walk away with a job offer, informational interviews can be incredibly useful in career exploration, networking, and the job search beyond.

Why are informational interviews important?

First, speaking with professionals in positions of interest offers a window into your possible future. What do these people enjoy about their work? What about it is particularly challenging? The answers to these kinds of questions are difficult to find online, which is what makes informational interviews so valuable.

Informational interviewing is also a key networking tool. Every person you connect with expands your professional circle exponentially. We know that the vast majority of jobs are obtained through networks of personal connections. Having a strong circle of contacts is what makes that possible!

Who do I talk to?

It’s much easier to make a connection if there is some common thread that links you. So, start with the network you already have: family, friends, faculty advisors, supervisors, etc.

From there, work your way outward. Identify individuals of interest in professional associations or at conferences you attend. To make more distant connections, LinkedIn is a wonderful tool, especially the LinkedIn Alumni Feature. To further expand your reach, connect with authors of research papers or publications you’ve found fascinating.

Finally, the people that you connect with can be great resources as well. When you meet with someone, ask who else they recommend you chat with!

How do I connect with them?

Once you’ve identified who you want to interview, reach out to them by phone or email. Let them know who you are and why you are emailing them, explain how you are connected (i.e. how did they end up on your radar?), identify what you’d like to talk to them about, and provide a few options for meeting times. Remember to give them a choice of meeting via phone or face-to-face.

How do I prepare?

Do as much research as you can about the company and the individual. This research will lend itself to intelligent, meaningful questions that provide you with useful information. It will also give you a frame of reference for the individual’s answers.

Also, remember that no informational interview is without a little back and forth. Have your elevator pitch ready to go so you’re prepared if the conversation turns back to you.

What do I ask?

Remember, let your research and your curiosity inform your questions. But if you’re really stuck, here are a few suggestions to get started:

  • What has been your path to this position?
  • What qualities must a person possess to be successful in this field? In your position?
  • How did your graduate coursework/research inform your work in this position? In this field?
  • What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started working?

For more suggestions, check out the Career Center’s sample “Ask An Expert” questions.

How do I follow up?

Always send a thank you note! Try to be as personal as possible by mentioning things you talked about, following up on questions asked, or providing any documents the individual requested (e.g. your resume). Remember to also connect on LinkedIn – this individual is now part of your professional network!

Katie Kinniburgh serves as the Career Development Coach for the College of Engineering at the University of South Carolina. She joined the Career Center in the summer of 2017, after receiving her master’s degree in College Student Personnel Administration from James Madison University and her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As the Career Development Coach for the College of Engineering, Katie’s primary role is to assist students as they develop, refine, and attain their professional goals. She can be reached at

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Email