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Before you embark on a longer-term internship or apply for paid work, it's possible to take part in some job shadow experiences that will help you get a feel for an industry and workers' day-to-day activities. Since companies don't often post openings for job shadowing, you'll have to do much of the leg work on your own. You may first need to identify people to shadow and then write a letter asking one or more of the individuals for a chance to work with them.
The first step in the process is identifying companies that will allow you to job shadow. Do some research online to find companies near you that do the type of work you're interested in doing. Then check the company website to find out the types of workers employed there, the work the company does and the overall image it presents to the public. If the website has a "Job Openings" page, read over the job postings to get a feel for the level of education and the qualities the company looks for in its employees. This research can help you determine the overall tone of your inquiry letters and how best to present yourself. Also use LinkedIn, Facebook or the company website to identify specific workers you'd like to shadow. Use your own personal network to identify people you could shadow; your connections could be a good way to get introduced to the right people.
As you might have guessed, you'll need to write a new letter for every job shadowing experience you're hoping to get. If you've identified a specific person in a company with whom you'd like to work, start off your letter by addressing that person directly. Type the person's name at the top of the letter, followed by his company name, address and any other contact information you have. Even if you've already been introduced online or through a personal connection, maintain a level of formality. For example, write, "Dear Mr. Smith," instead of "Dear John." If you don't have any one person identified, address your letter to the company's human resources department or a specific human resources officer identified on the company website.
In the first paragraph of the letter, introduce yourself to the addressee. First state your name, and then tell the addressee about any college programs, training programs or other background you have that is related to what the company does. If you don't have any background or training, tell the addressee that you're exploring a new career path. If you've been referred by someone you know, tell the addressee in this first paragraph. Then state specifically that you are looking to do a job shadow experience within the company.
It doesn't hurt to use a little flattery in the second paragraph. Tell the person what you admire about the work he does or why you're so interested in shadowing with him -- or his company. If it's your goal to do the same kind of work he's doing, say so. Don't gush, but let him know that you value his work and want to learn more about it. Following that, name the specific date range during which you want to conduct the job shadowing experience. If you'd like to job shadow for a few days, say so, but also make it clear that you're open to working with the person to find a date that works for both of you. End the letter by thanking the person for his time and state a date by which you'll get back in touch to discuss the possibilities. Then sign your name, and include your email address, phone number and physical address at the bottom of the letter.
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Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.
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