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Get a Job Shadow to Start a New Career

Changing your career midstream is not without risk. Imagine taking a lower salary and starting over at entry level, only to find out that you aren't cut out for the job. Any established professional abandoning a successful career to enter a new field or industry needs to be sure that the new job is exactly what she was hoping for -- and one way to find out is through a job-shadowing program. The job shadow involves following a person in your ideal job to get a glimpse of the tasks and duties that occur on a daily basis.

Research the job you are interested in shadowing. If you would prefer to work in a particular industry or specific company, narrow the list of places you would like to work and then identify the person currently performing the job.

Determine whether your employer has the type of job you would like to pursue. If so, find out if it has a formal job-shadowing program. Review the criteria and determine if you meet the requirements -- such as having a satisfactory performance record and receiving approval from your supervisor -- then complete the necessary application process. If there is no formal program, consider approaching the incumbent directly, or asking a mutual friend and colleague to broach the subject.

Try to find a referral if the position you want to shadow is outside your current company. Use your networking contacts to provide you with a lead. Your alma mater may have a shadowing program. Although this would be primarily designed for students, as an alumnus you might be able to get access to the same assistance and resources. Alternatively, search for potential job-shadowing opportunities through the alumni network.

Send a professional letter requesting a job shadow to the person you are hoping to shadow. Print your letter on white or cream business stationery and use formal business conventions such as "Dear Sir." Explain that you are seeking a career change and have always been interested in the position. Ask if it is possible for you to job shadow the position. Be appreciative of the individual's time and emphasize that you will be extremely flexible and as nonintrusive as possible. Call and follow up in one or two weeks if you don't receive a response initially.

Review a video of your desired career if you cannot obtain a live shadowing experience. Virtual job shadowing is available through many government agencies and the Department of Labor has several videos depicting a day in the life of careers such as a carpenter, medical assistant and computer-support specialist.



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