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You've heard of the informational interview—sitting down with a person whose career you admire, and asking questions about their career and trajectory.
But what about experiencing their career? Or rather, a few days of it?
Shadowing an experienced professional can be a great way to get a feel for different companies and industries, and to pick up some extra business experience and self knowledge—for free!
Of course, the enlightenment will come at one cost: time. Since this exercise requires a day or five in a strange office, obviously, you'll be MIA from your own 9 to 5. If you truly hate your job, this might be worth using some vacation days for. Otherwise, it's best left to those between engagements.
Still interested? Here's your plan of attack:
Come up with a cross section of companies you find interesting. This can be for a wide range of reasons—maybe you're excited about the prestige, the game rooms, or the mission statement. Try to include a wide range of different companies, from startups to Fortune 500s. Think of it like choosing college campuses to visit: you'll want big, small, buttoned up, casual, cerebral, and creative.
Learn a little about each of your targets. Follow both the corporate twitter accounts and those of the CEOs (or the job title that corresponds with your interests). Check out "team" pages on the company website and learn a little about the backgrounds of who works there. Be sure to note any common interests or connections—sharing an alma mater with the office manager may come in handy!
3. Prioritize and organize
By now, you may have two brass rings for your company: those you're most excited about, and those you have an in with (you share a personal trainer with a risk manager!). Order these in a spreadsheet accordingly, and take down contact info for each—whether it's a twitter handle, or calling in a favor with a mutual contact.
4. Make your move
Ask and you might receive. Don't ask and... nothing will happen. While cold emails may work, you can use any medium you're comfortable with: LinkedIn, Twitter, even a phonecall. Just be sure to use the four F's: friendly, flattering, feasible, and finite. Choose specific details to mention about the company to demonstrate your interest, ask for something reasonable (anywhere from an afternoon with a person or a week to rotate around the company works), and of course, be brief!
5. Let hope—not fear—guide you
It's important to keep a positive approach with this process. It may be scary to reach out, and yes, you may experience rejection. But one yes will be worth all the no's, and you may do better than you think!
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