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Job shadowing, in its simplest form, entails following an experienced employee for a short period of time, who is already employed and doing the work you are interested in. It is usually done by either new employees or potential future employees who may be looking for a career change and want to get familiar with a new job before committing.
Besides giving professional insights into the job they are interested in; job shadowing can be a great way for on-the-job training. It is a very effective form of job training for many professions. By job shadowing, an employee, student or intern can acquire extensive knowledge of the day-to-day activities of a skilled and experienced employee in a way that is impossible otherwise.
It is a much better way to understand the know-how needed for a job role, far superior to reading a job description or partaking in a session in which an employee explains his/her role. This is because, job shadowing helps you observe the employee at the most basic level and understand the subtleties of his/her roles and responsibilities – how exactly a job is done, what is expected from an employee on that job, and with whom the employee interacts daily at the workplace. These may include attending official meetings, visiting clients or customers, or participating in training sessions and industry conferences to become completely aware of the job.
Who All Can Job Shadow?
Job shadowing is known to be highly effective when a company onboards a new employee and, in some cases, when a senior employee wants to get familiar with other roles within his/her current organization. This comes in handy when an employee or future employee is interested in a new job, but uncertain about whether he/she would fit well into the new role and do the job as efficiently and passionately as he/she is doing in their current position.
The wealth of information about a different or new role can drastically alleviate apprehension associated with the new job. In cases of lateral transfers and at times, promotions, job shadowing can be extremely beneficial.
Without a doubt, it can be advantageous to high school and college students as it will help them decide whether their interest in a specific field is worth considering as a career; since it allows them to know how they may feel and what challenges they would face being in that job.
For internships, job shadowing is a key component as it assists interns in experiencing an array of jobs within the organization during the course of their internship. A company should also make sure to offer the right internship experience with proper planning and aligning the intern with appropriate employees to maximize the effect of the shadowing. A major reason for this is making interns do the same tasks over and over during the period of their internship will never let them test their skills and knowledge in different roles, potentially depriving both the intern and the company of an excellent fit.
Professions in Which Job Shadowing is Highly Effective
By and large, job shadowing is a very effective tool in jobs where observation is more important than verbal instructions, i.e., personally seeing, understanding, and analyzing different aspects of a job rather than just hearing what to and what not to do in a particular job.
A person job shadowing an employee sees the actual performance of that person on the job, for example, how a service is offered, how different tasks are performed, and so on. Simply put, it helps a participant understand the nuances and multiple aspects of a specific job that can often be lost when trying to explain a position in a meeting.
While job shadowing, a person observes the employee’s approach used to do that job and interacts with the employee frequently while being with them. Doing this helps them to know about all necessary actions and steps, and understands the major and minor components of that job required to perform it in the best possible way.
While almost every job has some scope to allow job shadowing as part of employee training and development, there are a few professions wherein job shadowing is relatively more effective.
Occupational therapists, surgeons, physicians, physical therapists, nurses, physiotherapists, and rescue workers.
Woodworkers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, cooling and heating technicians, and more.
Quality controllers, machine operators, toolmakers, machinists, die makers, and so on.
Secretaries, clerks, supervisors, administrative assistants, receptionists, etc.
Product Development & Go to Market:
Software developers, marketing and sales professionals, customer and technical support staff, user experience testers, market researchers, and more.
The professions mentioned above are the ones where job shadowing is an important aspect of on-the-job training and learning. However, irrespective of the type of job and sector, job shadowing always helps in the gaining of knowledge and wisdom in a way far superior to most other methods.
Thus, companies shouldn’t strictly exclude job shadowing from specific jobs, especially managerial roles, such as HR, finance, executive leadership, and supervisory roles. This is because every job has at least some component or other that can be best understood and learned through job shadowing.
An employee, who is job shadowing can attend office meetings, take notes of things related to the job, interview job applicants, and partake in brainstorming and other non-confidential activities.
When Is Job Shadowing Crucial?
Job shadowing is especially useful and important when an employee is training for a role above his/her current one. For instance, an HR assistant job shadows an HR manager when the latter expects a promotion to the position of an HR director. Also, an HR manager job shadows the HR director, when the latter hopes for promotion to Vice President – HR, and so on.
Likewise, in the manufacturing sector, a press operator cannot be promoted to a supervisor unless he trains a junior press operator to replace him. In this case, job shadowing tends to be the very first phase of the training, which allows the junior press operator to understand how to prepare himself to operate a really large press.
In the End
Not only is job shadowing fruitful for students interested in a particular career and professionals looking for a career change, but it also acts as a superb tool for on-the-job training.
By job shadowing a more experienced employee or someone in a bigger/more responsible role than yours, you become aware of the nuances of that job as well as learn those aspects of the job that can hardly be understood just by listening or taking instructions at the workplace.