How to get valuable experience and network


Employers often look for "experience" or personal recommendations often. The secret to this when you are young volunteering. This includes joining clubs, job shadowing, committees, and any other organization. This is really one of the key factors of what separates people who are able to end of working in career they enjoy. Besides the networking and getting "ins," you are opening yourself up to opportunities that you would never have learned about. This is a part of the "how" in pursuing your passion. Being proactive. You need to get out in the world and volunteer in an area that interests you. You will never know the whole path. It starts with taking a step you and then you see where it leads. Even if you do not know why you would be gaining experience in something, just do it! Joining a club now, could result in connection that turns out to be useful 5 years from now. Trust the process. Taking one step at a time will get you where you are meant to go.

How to get an opportunity when there is no opportunity posted

1) What type of person should you contact?

Someone who does something that is interesting to you, is in a position to connect you with desirable opportunities, or who may good to know for any other reason. People want to help a young person who is interested in the same thing. You remind them of themselves when they were your age. LinkedIn and Google are your friends for finding people involved in areas of personal interest to contact. You can also search organizations and check out ways to get involved on their website. If they do not have any, go to their contact page and see who there is to email. 

2) Figure out how you will reach out.

While LinkedIn is good for finding people, it is not necessarily the best for place to ask for opportunities. You can try this same process with someone who is a LinkedIn connection, but is better to email or write an actual letter. People are less likely to take your inquiry seriously if it is a LinkedIn or social media message So, try to find their email and don't give up if you can’t find it online. You could email someone who they work with or know and ask for them for it. You could go the physical place they work with a letter and ask nicely for it to be delivered to the person (see next step for contents of letter). You can find a way if you really want to get in contact with someone

2) Reaching out.

The goal at is to demonstrate your genuine interest and make them feel inclined to help you out. Think about questions such as: What about your life has made you interested in learning about the area this person is involved in? What commonality exists that may make them feel inclined to help you out.

Example of actual request that led to job shadowing experience:

Dear Dr. Smith,

The work you do as a neurologist is of interest to me because I am in the process of applying to graduate school (or college if in HS) and plan to pursue a career within applied psychology. I am friends with your daughter Erin (see *note) and thought I would reach out to you as I try to learn more about what options there are in this area. Would it be possible to come talk with you in person or spend some time shadowing while you work? Any advice or opportunity to learn more would be appreciated.


Your Name

*Note: It is helpful to your chances of getting a good response if you can provide a reason for contacting this particular person and demonstrate a commonality. They could be a family friend, have went to same high school or college, work with a relative, or be the parent of someone you know. 

3) Wait for responses and keep reaching out. You will be building valuable relationships, getting valuable experience, and discovering a new world of opportunities.


Ben Sheler