Advice to 18-year-old me

If I could provide one bit of career/academic advice to the 18-year-old me who was preparing to enter college without a clue as to why or to what end, it would be this:

Do as many informational interviews as possible.

To quantify that even further, I’d tell myself to do a minimum of one per month for the entire time I was in school.   Twelve meetings per year.  That’s not too onerous.  I’m sure I spent ten times that each month on skateboarding, and probably 20 times that much playing bass guitar. But, imagine if I had carved out one meeting per month with either a faculty member or with a working professional for my entire college career. How transformational would that have been?

Students often envy other students who seem to “know” what they want to do after graduation.  The reality is that most students don’t know what they want to do after graduation, and a large percentage of those who think they know are operating on partial information at best.  I argue here that informational interviewing is the best way to get many birds with few stones.

So, 18-year-old Gary, here’s my final pitch:

Informational interviewing gives first-hand information about careers, industries and companies.  It also has the added effect of developing/expanding your network.  I know you’re an introvert and a bit shy, but you should work hard to overcome those obstacles and start talking to people about their lives as soon as possible.  Do it now and do it often.  You’ll thank me later.

Gary Alan Miller

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  1. Gary, I couldn’t agree with you more! Coming into to the last semester of senior year, I realized how beneficial a process like the one you outlined would’ve been. And as I started using social media (especially Twitter), I realized how easy it would’ve been. For people thinking about grad school, informational interviews with professors can be a great way to ensure good recommendation letters down the road. There are so many benefits to the practice, and no down sides. Thanks for writing this!

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