Job Shadowing is a highly engaging career exploration tool for job seekers. It is a work-based learning experience in which you follow a host during a typical day (or period of time), observing and asking questions about a particular career. A job shadowing assignment can range from a half day, to a full day, to a week or a month, depending on your needs and the host’s availability. By experiencing a career first-hand, you will learn a great deal more about that career than you can through Informational Interviewing.
Many of the same rules apply to job shadowing as apply to informational interviewing: preparing for the experience, scheduling it, getting the most out if it, and following up on it. At the end of the assignment, you should have gathered enough information about that job to make an informed career decision.
During your job shadowing experience, you will follow the professional you are shadowing through his or her work day. You will observe the rigors of the job, the company culture, and ask lots of questions. This is a time consuming project so if you are employed, you may need to schedule personal time off.
Six Steps To Conducting an Effective Job Shadowing Experience
Step One: Identify the Occupation or Industry to Learn About
Since job shadowing can be a time consuming project, you will want to pick the one or two professions that most interest you.
Step Two: Identify People to Job Shadow
You will want to job shadow someone who is filling the position of interest. You should not shadow someone in a position that is below, above or somewhat like the position you will be doing. Start with lists of people you already know, including friends, relatives, fellow students, present or former co-workers, supervisors, alumni, and neighbors. You may also call an organization and ask for the name of a person by their job title.
Step Three: Arrange the Job Shadowing Experience
Contact the “host” to set up your job shadowing experience. Be sure to introduce yourself and explain why you are calling. Contact this person several weeks’ in advance of the date when you would like to do the shadowing. You will need to determine if you will be onsite for a day, three days or an entire week. The timing will be dependant on your availability as well as the availability of your host. If they do not want to meet with you, ask for a referral by:
- a letter followed by a telephone call, or
- having someone who knows the person make the appointment for you.
In preparing your communication, be sure to:
- Offer a brief introduction about yourself.
- Explain why you are contacting this individual.
- Explain your interests in the person’s field, organization, or location.
- Highlight why you would like to converse. Be straightforward.
- Indicate when you will contact this person again.
Step Four: Engage in the Job Shadow Experience
Research the company where you plan to shadow carefully. While your best research will come from the actual shadowing, find out enough about the company so that you won’t seem ignorant to the person you are shadowing.
Be helpful on the job by providing help and assistance when appropriate. If you are asked to attend business meetings, it is very important to refrain from speaking and participating in the discussion. You are not an employee; you are an observer.
If you need your cell phone, make sure that the ringer is on “vibrate” mode. It is rude to have telephone calls interrupt while onsite during this valuable experience. If you need to take one or two emergency phone calls, then excuse yourself from the work area to talk. Please limit the discussion to 3-5 minutes at the most.
Dress appropriately, arrive on time, be polite, and be professional. Refer to your list of prepared questions; stay on track, but allow for spontaneous discussion and interaction.
Remember to take notes during your experience, so that you can reference them later.
Step Five: Follow Up
Immediately following the job shadowing experience, record your thoughts and questions.
Be sure to send a thank you note to your contact within one week of the experience.