Clearly, someone grossly misnamed "job shadowing." While shadows suggest darkness and mystery, job shadowing experiences illuminate and enlighten. Job shadowing allows you to dip your toe into a career before diving in. Over the course of a half day or longer, you quietly follow and observe an executive doing his job at a company. Then you can better assess whether that job would be a good fit for you going forward. To get the opportunity to job shadow, you need to reach out to companies with a well-crafted request. Your letter should be formal, informative, direct and to a degree, persuasive.
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Create a subject line to describe the purpose of your letter. While optional, many busy executives appreciate the "heads-up" of a subject line. For example, "Subject (or RE:): Request to job shadow you next month."
Begin with a friendly remark or a unique detail regarding your relationship with the recipient. Then, state the reason you are writing. For example, "My father, (name), suggested that I reach you to enquire if I may job shadow you next month. Dad says that besides being a good golfer, you're an excellent architect."
Introduce yourself in the next paragraph and provide details of your request. For example, "I am student at XYZ University and have always had a keen interest in architecture. I would be honoured by the opportunity to observe you and your workplace for a day. Without any effort on your part, you would help me decide whether to pursue your profession as my career."
Acknowledge the executive's valuable time and reassure her that no extra effort will be needed to accommodate you. Perhaps suggest a shorter period of time, such as a half day or a couple of hours, as alternatives. Then request a brief 15-minute chat at the end of your job shadowing experience to discuss some of your observations.
Thank the executive for considering your request. Indicate that you will be calling him in a few days to ascertain his reply and arrange a specific job shadowing date and time. Offer your own phone number and e-mail address in case he needs to reach you.
Summarise your request and then thank the executive again for her consideration. For example, "Thank you again, Ms. Barton. I look forward to speaking with you on Friday the 16th of March, to arrange my job-shadow experience." Close with "Sincerely yours" or "Respectfully yours." Then sign your letter.
Tips and warnings
- To identify organisations in which to job shadow, check the resource centres of local schools, colleges, universities and workforce-related community organisations. They often have pre-compiled lists of area establishments that welcome job shadowing applicants.
- Alternatively, identify sites on your own; enlist the help of family members, colleagues and contacts within the organisations that interest you.
- You may send a copy of your letter to the person who suggested contacting the recipient. This will confirm your mutual relationship to your recipient, which often is very persuasive. Add your contact's name to a distribution list preceded by "CC:" beneath your signature.
- The more advance notice you can give your recipient, the better your chances of job shadowing at his organisation.
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