How She Did It: From Layoff to Ideal Job

This is a guest post by Heather Taylor. This freelance writer, consultant and radio producer has served as a job coach in the AARP Foundation WorkSearch Program since January 2011, helping adults 50+ who are unemployed to find satisfying work.

When educator Nancy Angelo got furloughed from her teaching job years ago, she didn’t know that job hunting expert Richard Nelson Bolles had coined the phrase informational interview. She went with her gut. Now she offers advice and tips of her own for today’s career-changers and job seekers.

Informational interviews were key to her success.

“I decided that I wanted to translate what I learned as a teacher into helping in the international field,” Nancy explains. ” I started talking with people in government, people in the private sector. And I found out a ton of information…I got contacts with people who were very helpful. Several of them called me with more information than they had initially given me in the information interview because they had thought of something they hadn’t mentioned before.” The result of her efforts? “I got the greatest job ever.”

Here are four tips for successful informational interviews (plus a video interview with Nancy below).

1. Figure out where you want to go. Nancy knew exactly which direction she wanted to head: from teaching to work in the international field. Need help figuring out that out? Check out these resources on job-hunting from AARP, and AARP Foundation’s WorkSearch program.

2. Research companies, organizations and people. Nancy found out what industries and positions might fit her job search goals, and requested informational interviews. Networking with people we know remains one of the most important ways to find work, and job seekers also have the advantage of invaluable tools like Google for general research, plus LinkedIn and other social networking sites. New to LinkedIn? Check out Parmelee Eastman’s “Beyond Networking – Using LinkedIn for Research.

3. Come prepared with questions, and before you finish ask your interviewee for two additional contacts. Nancy gathered tons of information via nearly 70 informational interviews. See tips and sample questions to ask in this article by reporter Marci Alboher, and check out this informational interview video from AARP. The more targeted the questions and the more people you contact, the closer you ultimately get to the job you want.

4. Immediately follow-up an interview with a thank-you note. Nancy suggests covering three key elements: thanks for your time, a specific reference to something you and the interviewee discussed, and a desire to stay in touch. Staying in touch is particularly important, she says; she specifically asked “Could I stay in touch?” as part of each interview. Most of her interviewees said yes. Check out career expert Alison Doyle’s thank-you note examples at

Also, bookmark AARP’s work and job hunting resources for useful tools and information to help you in today’s competitive job market.

More on Nancy Angelo: Nancy retired from the federal government about two years ago and joined the AARP Foundation WorkSearch Program as a job coach. Now the DC Site Coordinator, she coaches and oversees managerial and administrative functions in the WorkSearch Program. Nancy is living proof that information interviews work.