Greetings and welcome to a belated flute Friday/Saturday.
In my monthly flute horoscopes, I often suggest conducting informational interviews with other influential flutists in the industry. Some may be familiar with this somewhat corporate-speak type term and others may have no idea what I am talking about. In my other life outside of fluting, I have found informational interviews to be a very useful tool in gathering information about the career trajectory of others, making valuable connections with other top performers, and gaining helpful advice to forge a new path forward in my career. We can use some of these same principles when it comes to our flute careers. In today’s blog, I will be discussing what informational interviewing is, how to do it, and sample questions you might ask. Hopefully this will empower some of you to connect with your flute idols, who are likely to have some great words of wisdom, if you simply reach out and ask.
What is an Informational Interview? An informational interview is a meeting you arrange (either by Zoom, telephone, in-person, etc.) with another flutist that has a career role of interest to you. The main purpose of an informational interview is to gather information about the profession, a particular niche, or a certain career trajectory. Do not mistake an informational interview for a job interview – This is only about information gathering and making connections. Essentially the interview is about them – Not you :).
Benefits of Informational Interviewing – You will gain a better understanding of the flute world and how it operates in the greater music industry. You will learn about new and interesting careers that have led directly or indirectly to other positions both in and out of the music industry. You will be able to clarify some of your flute playing goals. You will often learn about current trends in the flute world and potential job openings. You will discover which experiences and/or skills you still need and who might help you develop them. You might even gather ideas for courses or work projects to pursue to increase your visibility. And of course, at the end of the day, you are making new contacts with important flutists in the business.
How to Identify Flutists to Interview? Social media is a powerful tool! Look up flutists you admire on Instagram or Facebook. Spend some time perusing flute videos on YouTube. Leave comments on social media, like and share posts, and, well, be a bit of stalker during this initial phase. Who do you resonate most with? Is there a flutist that you truly admire? Is there someone who has your dream flute career? Reach out! Try to find a direct email for this person. If none exists, send them a direct message on their social media platform.
Asking for the Interview – Introduce yourself and explain that you are investigating positions in the flute industry. Explain how you got their name and why you are interested in learning more about their career. Request a scheduled time to meet either virtually, over the phone, or in-person. Try to stick to 20-30 minutes of their time to keep things efficient. Ask them for a time that works around their schedule (and try to be flexible with your own schedule, if at all possible). Be prepared for a few “no thank you”s. Not everybody you contact will have the time or wherewithal for an interview, but you may be surprised by the ones that return with a yes :).
Preparing for the Interview – Make sure to prepare a list of questions. You may not have time to go through every question as follow-up questions tend to evolve naturally as the conversation evolves. Learn as much as you can about the person and their bio ahead of time so you have background information that you will not necessarily need to cover in the short amount of time you are allotted. Prepare your elevator speech – Who are you and where are you at in your flute career? Where do you hope to go with your flute playing in the future?
Conducting the Interview – As you pull together your list of questions, make sure you are asking open-ended questions and not simply yes/no inquiries. You want your interviewee to expound on their experiences and wisdom. Take brief notes – If you know short-hand, even better! You can make a longer list of notes to yourself after the interview. Ask for referrals or resources that might help you as your navigate your own flute career. Watch the time carefully – You don’t want to be remembered as the person that scheduled a 30-minute interview but ended up imposing yourself for double that time! Finally, try to listen more than talk. After all, this is a fact-finding mission – Not a chance to sell yourself.
- How long have you been playing the flute?
- How and when did you know you wanted to be a professional flutist?
- What were the flute jobs you’ve held that helped get you to your current position? How did they pave the way to where you are today?
- What was the audition process like throughout your career? How has it changed over the years?
- How long did it take you to land the flute job you currently have? What were some of the things you learned during the audition/interview process?
- Who are your flute idols and why? What would you ask them if you could conduct an informational interview with them?
- What suggestions do you have for me as I navigate my way through the flute world?
- What do you like best about being a flutist?
- What courses, certificates, or degree programs do you recommend in order to make oneself more marketable as a flutist?
- Do you have a special flute niche? How did you discover your niche?
- How would a flutist with my background fit into a more professional role?
- What are the challenges of being a professional flutist in today’s world?
- Where do you see the future of flute playing going?
- What professional associations do you belong to? How has being a member of these groups helped excel your flute career?
- Who else do you recommend I speak to?
- What can I do to make myself more marketable as a flutist?
Wrapping it All Up – First thing’s first: Send a thank you note. This could be an email but a thank you card is sometimes a bit more thoughtful in a world obsessed with technology. Make it personal and thank them for specific pieces of advice that you intend to follow-up on. Then actually follow-up with those resources and reach out to any other artists or professionals they recommended. If they asked you for any other documentation, make sure that you follow-up in a timely manner. Keep a folder with all of your notes from your informational interviews. Use the info, tools, and resources you receive from these meetings to help lead you to the very next best step in your flute career.
I am always game for an informational interview myself! If you’d like to schedule an interview with me, please do not hesitate to reach out via direct message.
Have you conducted informational interviews? What did you learn from your time with other professional flutists? What resources and advice did you find to be most valuable. Please comment below!
Happy fluting! (And interviewing)