Online research is a crucial part of the career decision-making process. But in my view, face-to-face research via networking is superior. It is superior at helping you (a) build trust with industry experts, (b) test your assumptions about your career options, and (c) check the reliability of information posted on websites.
According to Daniel Hallak, “networking at its core is all about building relationships and sharing information.” That's especially true of a networking technique known as "the informational meeting."
Informational meetings are the most effective tool in your networking tool kit for getting reliable information from experts who are already working in your fields of interest. They are brief meetings with industry leaders designed to gather information on job fit, future outlooks, training requirements, and different pathways to the careers you are interested in. These meetings are best conducted in-person, but can also happen via video conferencing or by phone.
Informational meetings serve three main purposes:
First, they are designed to help you to investigate your initial ideas about which career options are best for you.
Second, they help you to fill in the gaps in your online research. Online information is often partial, piecemeal, and incomplete – leaving you with many unanswered questions about your career options – questions about advancement opportunities, working conditions, and organizational culture that are best answered by people actually doing the work.
Third, informational meetings can help you build a team of experts who will support you and advocate for you when the time comes to transition into the work you’ll love. It takes some work up front to develop such a team, but it is well worth it in the long run.
Given the many benefits of informational meetings for your career and job search, I'd strongly recommend that you try them, if you haven't already. They'll provide you with insights that you can't find online, and that means peace of mind when making your next big career decision!
[i] Daniel Hallak, “How to Run and Informational Interview” The Center for Career and Calling. Seattle Pacific University. (2017)