Saturday, July 14, 2007

Informational interview questions for post-career-change activists

I've been gathering leads from friends of people who have shifted career directions or otherwise restructured their work life in a way that allows them to spend more time (paid or unpaid) on work in the activism/nonprofit/social change realm. I've started building a list of contacts, and I've also been compiling a list of questions to ask them that would help me learn from their experience and apply it to my own life. Career Changer and Informational Interview Tutorial at Quintessential Careers and Informational Interview Questions at were all helpful during this process. Here's what I have so far:
  • What is your educational background and job history?

  • Do you have a day job separate from your activism? If so, what is it?

  • When you decided to incorporate activism into your life or career, what options did you consider for doing so? How did these options compare in terms of work/life balance and meeting your financial needs?

  • Did you pursue any options that turned out to be dead ends?

  • What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position?

  • If your previous jobs and training were not in your field of activism, how did you switch tracks and get your foot in the door for your activism position?

  • What are the pros and cons of your current work situation?

  • What are the pros and cons of the activism/non-profit field in general?

  • What are your day-to-day tasks and responsibilities in your activism role?

  • Do you have an alternative or unusual work arrangement? (e.g. job share, part-time, non-standard working hours) If so, how did you approach current/potential employers with your proposal for this arrangement? How did you persuade them to accept it?

  • Did you downshift your salary and/or lifestyle in order to take on your activism work? If so, what financial adjustments did you have to make, and how did you handle them? How did you prepare financially before starting your activism work?

  • Is there anything you would have done differently?

  • Do you see yourself following your current path for the foreseeable future? If not, what future directions are you considering?

  • What advice would you give to someone in my situation and with my goals?

  • Do you know anyone else I could talk to?

  • Is it ok if I blog about our conversation? I promise not to use your name, unless you wish me to.
Special questions for ex-/current high-tech workers:
  • Do you have any experience with or opinions about these options I'm considering?

    1. A whole-hog switch to the non-profit career track

    2. Find a tech job within a non-profit

    3. Work for a non-profit that provides tech services to other non-profits

    4. Go into software contracting so I can spend part of the year working for money and part of the year working for causes I support

    5. Go into software contracting and specialize in working for non-profits as a contractor

    6. Look for a part-time software job so I can devote more hours per week to volunteerism/activism

    7. Create a job share arrangement to reduce work hours enough to devote more time to volunteerism/activism

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