writing strong professional correspondence — especially W r i t i n g

writing strong professional correspondence — especially W r i t i n g

Attached here is the research you’ll be doing to prepare for writing this letter. While you are only required to respond to 10 basic questions, and only need to include 5 sources total, it may behoove you to accumulate any information you find useful towards your future professional (or further academic goals).

Each of the ten questions only asks for one resource link, but you are encouraged to gather whatever extra info you need and include in the assignment (or in your own personal file for future use). Please don’t include TOO much.


Excerpt from:Shriver, Maria.Ten Things I Wish I’d Known – Before I Went Out into the Real World.New York: Warner Books, 2000.

“Moving humanity forward. That is my ministry. That is my mission. I hope you will join me.”–Maria Shriver

First and Foremost: Pinpoint Your Passion

Be honest with yourself about it. Really think about what you’re interested in. What you enjoy, what captures your imagination and gets your brain going. What YOU want to do – not what you believe your parents or your teachers or society or your four brothers think you should do.

When I graduated back in 1977, all I wanted to do was anchor a network TV show. Everyone thought I was nuts. My parents’ friends told me to get a grip on myself and go to law school until I could figure out what I really wanted to do. Others suggested I should catch the wave that was surely going to wash up on Wall Street. My girlfriends all wanted to go to the big city, get an apartment together, and have a blast. Still other people told me to get out of denial, stop fighting the family tradition, and go into politics. All legitimate goals, but they weren’t mine.

I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, but not through the law or business or politics or public service. I wanted to tell the stories of the day in the medium of the day, television-reaching out to the world with ideas, made real in words and pictures.

Now, how had I gotten so passionate about going into television news? I was bitten by the bug back in 1972, when I was still in high school. As the ancient history majors among you may know, that year my father was the Democratic nominee for vice president. I was helping out on his campaign, and I was lucky to get the rare opportunity to travel on the campaign plane. (Note: If you have the inclination or the opportunity to work on an election campaign, grab it. I guarantee you’ll learn more about people and politics in this country than almost anywhere else your travels may take you.)

My father’s staff stuck me—”candidate’s kid, obviously a brat!”— with “THEM” in the back of the plane. It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. You see, the back of the plane was where the fun was, because “THEM” was the press, the hardworking, wisecracking guys (and a few women) from the big national media-newspapers, wire services, radio, and TV. Most of them had covered politics for years, watching the passing parade of candidates and campaigns through practiced (some would say jaundiced) eyes. They were constantly observing and commenting, and their endless stream of quips and coverage-even cartoons-put the presidential campaign on a whole new plane for me. Literally.

Remember, I’d lived and breathed politics my entire life – had political discussion and debate served like mashed potatoes with dinner every night since I was a little kid. In a lot of ways, politics and making history was the family business. But that year on the campaign, I experienced firsthand something groundshaking to me: I saw how the newspeople put their fingerprints on history before it became history, taking something that had just happened in front of my eyes and giving it context. What the public saw was not the raw event I was experiencing on the campaign. It was filtered and explained and shaped by the journalists first.

And as we traveled the country, this colorful, wonderful band of smart and funny explainers and shapers was constantly changing. Reporters and crews from local media would jump on board for a while and then drop off – people with regional interests, like agriculture in Wichita or unionism in Detroit, who’d put their own spin on it. And I also got to fraternize with and observe some of the real heavy hitters of political journalism. They’d travel with the campaign for varying lengths of time, and I’d eagerly await their pieces in the New York Times or the Washington Post or the CBS Evening News and scarf them up.

But the difference between regional and national reporters wasn’t the only one I noticed. The straight reporters would report what they’d seen and heard – picking and choosing their story elements from what actually happened, but then just showing and describing them and letting readers or viewers come to their own conclusions. In contrast, the name columnists and commentators would get to interpret and analyze, offering their personal takes on what was going on in Campaign ’72.

Either way, though, I saw it was the newspeople, not my dad or his press people, who decided what part of a speech, if anything, made it into the papers or on the air. By punching up certain issues or making the candidates the issue or focusing on the horse race, these journalists wielded huge influence. And it seemed to me that television had the most heat. It possessed an immediacy, an ability to capture and transmit the excitement (or the boredom) of the campaign-and the sincerity (or cynicism) of the candidates.

And it dawned on me right there in the back of the plane eating peanuts, that television would be the politics of the future. Television would be the way to touch people, move and excite them, anger and educate them the way politicians used to when they had direct contact with voters one-on-one in the streets. I knew this in my gut, and I wanted in.

Remember, this was the 1972 election, just a heartbeat before the Watergate scandal broke open. Before Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (let alone Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman) intoxicated a generation with the ideal of crusading journalists exposing the bad guys to the light of the truth. In 1972, the news biz was not an obvious career choice, especially for a young woman.

So I sat in the back of the plane eating too many peanuts (more on that later), thinking, “Yes, this is for me.” I, too, would travel the country and even the world, meeting people from every place and every walk of life. I’d hear their stories and then turn around and bear witness, sharing them with the rest of the country. I would be part of this pack of intense and highly competitive professionals. Work would never be boring. Laughter was a big part of it. And hadn’t I always said I didn’t want a desk job? These guys on the plane didn’t even have desks.

Day after day, I asked my traveling companions every question I could think of. Where’d you go to school? What did you study? How did you get all of your experience? How do you handle the competition? What about that punishing deadline every day? Do you dread it or crave it? How many newspapers a day do you read? Five? How do you get scoops? How can you be so breezy, schmoozing politics with the other reporters, when your real goal is to beat the pants off them every night? When do you see your kids? I soaked up the answers, and my own dreams came into focus. By the time Campaign ’72 was over, I knew what I wanted to do with my life – but I didn’t tell a soul.

I didn’t tell anyone because I thought they’d view it as silly, and I didn’t want the hassle of trying to convince them otherwise. I knew otherwise, and that was enough. Also, part of it had just a little something to do with my family, which regarded the press in many ways as an adversary across a great divide – prying into our lives, chronicling our every move. Like many young people who are secretive about their dreams, I thought my family would be incredibly disappointed in my choice.

But remember, just because you think you must fulfill others’ expectations doesn’t mean you have to. And here’s something shocking: You actually might be wrong. I was. When I finally told my parents what I wanted to do, they never once warned me not to. They never once told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t or wouldn’t possibly succeed in the news business. They just nodded and said they regretted they couldn’t really help me in that business and they gave me their blessing. They might have thought I was silly or nuts, but they never let me know. They let me grow, and any skepticism they possessed changed into pride. Eventually.

Of course, my father’s ticket lost the election in 1972. But not me. I won – a vision I could follow into my future, a passion I could pursue. It colored every decision I made after that – where I lived, where I worked, and who I spent time with. I was determined to learn everything I could about TV news, and I was determined to be good at it.

Trust your gut, no matter what you expect your parents or teachers or anyone else will think of your choice. Lots of people don’t know where to start. So try to pinpoint the field, the area, the kinds of people you want to be with. It’s your life. Go with your gut.


At this point in your academic career, most of you have figured out a general direction (or a specific one) that you wish to pursue professionally after graduation.Some of you are already working in your field of choice, or on the brink of it. Regardless, the purpose of this is assignment is to teach you HOW to effectively write an informed professional letter whether it be for seeking a job, gaining experience opportunity, introducing yourself, etc.

In today’s fast-moving, competitive context, writing strong professional correspondence—especially NOW that we find ourselves functioning without physical face to face interaction—can effectively facilitate your entry into your field/profession OR facilitate your upward movement within a certain field/profession/company that you are already working in/for.

If you have not had to think that far ahead yet in regard to a professional position (or internship) within your chosen field that you’re currently studying, that’s okay. I again remind you that the goal here is to strengthen your professional correspondence writing skills so that you can apply what you learn to future writing tasks that will inevitably arise.

Quite simply, this assignment will require some basic, but focused research (an important skill in itself) which means you will need to delve into your field of study and also select a company or organization that you would ideally like to work for post-graduation.

Since this an hypothetically written letter, you can use this assignment to delve into what your “dream job” would entail at a company that interests you.If you already have a job at a certain company that you’d like to work for in mind, even better; use this assignment to write a cover letter that you’ll likely have to write to gain a position with there. If you’re working for a company that has a “next-level” job you’d like to apply for, this is your chance. On the other hand, you may also use this assignment as an opportunity to apply for an internship (or for other experience needed to enter your profession or facilitate upward movement) that you might need to enter your profession.

Okay, let’s start the first step…

RESEARCH ASSIGNMENT:Worth 50 points total

  1. Research your intended profession (or current one).
  2. Research a company/organization you would like to work for (or already work for).


Cut and paste the numbered “Questions to consider…” below into a doc.

Under each of the numbered questions (1-10), include the following using a lettered (as illustrated) bulleted format response:

  1. Insert at least ONE working link to a credible and relevant resource,
  2. Insert relevant, quoted bits of information from that resource (or resources if you included multiple links) in a bulleted format (I should be able to skim your info quickly; NO PARAGRAPHS). You may paraphrase but the idea here is to get some juicy nuggets of information that you can use to show your knowledge and gain your audience’s trust.
  3. Include some brief notes that explain how the information you include is relevant to your purpose here.Your purpose is to provide some insight into who you are and what you want in writing this letter, and why.

Be sure that you follow the instructions above in regard to how to format your response.

Questions to consider when researching your intended profession:

Researching the Field/Job:

Part A:

  1. What will/does a job in this profession entail? And/or what tasks will you perform on a daily basis? And/or which responsibilities will you have?
  2. What type of specific education/training is required to obtain a job in this profession?
  3. What is the current job/career outlook? In other words, what is happening in the field right now that reflects real or potential growth in your field?(home in on what intrigues you?)
  4. What is the average starting salary?Any perks and/or benefits that particularly attract you?
  5. Who are some noteworthy people who have worked or are working in this profession? Or are advocating on behalf of it?

Questions to consider when researching the company/organization:

Part B:

6. What is the company/organization’s “mission statement”? (quote it; in your brief notes, explain how that appeals to you because of what it says about them

7. Who founded the company?Who is currently “in charge”? Quote something powerful and relevant that they have said.

8.How long has the company/organization been in existence?Any big obstacles they have overcome? Successes?Awards? (this is particularly important information needed to write a quality cover letter; consider including more than 1 link/resource to answer).

9. Who are some noteworthy people who have worked or are working for this company? (if this is not applicable, focus on providing more info for #8)

10.What do others say about this company?(If applicable, see Fast Company or Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.” ) Another approach would be to Google the company/organization’s name and scroll till you find a credible source/journalist/high-profile person saying something noteworthy about it that might be of use to you in writing your letter (appeal to ethos).

Grading Criteria:Worth 50 points total; each question worth up to 5 points.

To maximize credit earned, you work must show that:

  • Instructions are followed in regard to format.Take note of Part A and B, and the numbering of the 5 questions beneath each: a. link, b. quoted/paraphrased info, c. brief explanation of relevance of info you included.
    • Information is quoted correctly, or paraphrased for ease of absorbing content quickly. I will expect some information to be in quotation marks.
  • At least 5 different sources in total are included. Since some sources can provide a wide range of useful information, it’s okay to utilize some of them to answer multiple questions of the 10 in the assignment above.
  • The types of sources you include should vary since there are so many to choose from.
    • Here are some recommended options: Online and electronic published books, articles from a relevant/credible magazine, newspapers, scholarly journals (obtained from an article database such as EBSCOhost or Proquest), TedTalks, YouTube videos, pamphlets, reputable websites, documentaries, speeches, podcasts, etc.

Note:Subject specific encyclopedias such as Encyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance are acceptable; however, generic sources and encyclopedias such as Wikipedia, Encarta, Britannica, World Book, Ask.com, About.com, or Questia.com are not acceptable as the sources for this Module (however, you MAY use them for your own personal inquiries).

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