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Job Shadowing – What Is It and How Can I Try It


Jan 01, 2021

Job shadowing is an excellent way to learn and understand about a job of interest. It requires dedicating time in following an experienced professional, who is in your target job. You may be required to spend somewhere from a couple of hours to a few days to observe the professional life of that employee. This helps you have an idea of what the job is all about and judge whether the job of your interest is actually right for you.

Benefits of Job Shadowing

It can benefit you in a number of ways. By giving you a broad picture of a day(s) of the life of a seasoned professional in the role or field of your interest, it helps you make an informed choice with respect to career

In simple terms, job shadowing helps you decide in advance if you would enjoy being in the job of your interest and whether you will remain passionate about the same in the long run. Additionally, it assists you in deciding if your skillset is in line with your career of interest and whether you possess qualification and professional experience that can be transferred to the new role.

Owing to the fact that it is a short-term experience, in a relatively shorter period of time, it allows you determine if you can pursue any specific career prior to applying for an internship or a job.

Besides, it aids you in making new contacts with professionals already working in your field of interest. When you shadow someone who is a pro in his/her domain, you get a chance to gain insights into that profession before looking out for job or internship opportunities in your target field.

Types of Job-Shadowing

It can either be a part of some formal program arranged by your college/school or you can informally arrange it on a personal level.

For formal job shadowing, you can consider getting in touch with your college’s recruitment cell or school’s counselor. At times, schools also keep a list of their alumni, who allow students to job shadow.

In case you don’t find any help from the school, you can approach a career counselor, who can help you find an opportunity to job shadow. You can prepare a list of companies, where you want to job shadow, and then look out for professionals in your network who work in those organizations. Once you find someone worth following, you may request him/her for letting you to job shadow.

Besides, many large corporate houses as well as public agencies offer job shadowing opportunities for fresh graduates and students. Thus, you can look out for the availability of any such option with the organization of your interest.

Although most job shadow programs are aimed at letting college and school students to make right career choices, an adult too can go for job shadowing; especially if he/she is planning for a career switch. It is in fact one of the major steps to follow when planning a career change.

Many colleges and schools do offer such services to their alumni; hence, as a professional too you can approach the career service center of your college. You can also get in touch with your professional networking contacts as well as family members and friends to check if they allow you to spend a day or two with them at their office.

Requirements of Job Shadowing

While job shadowing may vary for different jobs, it usually requires following and observing an experienced employee and analyzing how he/she participates and manages his/her day-to-day activities at office. You may even get a chance to assist them with something during work hours. A few professionals may also allow you to question them in between the tasks, whereas many others prefer to answer only after office hours.

On the basis of the time spent with an employee, you may even learn some critical skills required to be in that role.

Step-Wise Guide to Job Shadowing

To take full advantage of a job shadowing opportunity, it is crucial to prepare yourself ahead of time. In case you are directly approaching a company, you may follow the steps below:

  • Do Research on Companies: Whether you were passionate about some career since childhood or you want to decide between several career options, the first step is to research about those fields and corresponding companies. Thereafter, you can find those organizations that are open to offer a job shadowing opportunity.
  • Approach the Company for a Job Shadowing Opportunity: In the first place, you should start approaching those companies in which you know a professional on the role of your interest. It may be someone from your professional network, a college alumnus, some family member or even a friend

    Directly reach out to those professionals and ask if job shadowing opportunities are available at their organizations or if they can personally help you with the same. However, if you don’t know anyone at the company, never hesitate in emailing or calling someone in the Human Resource department. If that too isn’t possible for you, try contacting someone in the department of your interest.

  • Be Ready with What to Explain and Ask: If you get a chance to talk with someone within the company regarding job shadowing, explain that person about your present status – whether you are a student or a professional looking for a career change.

    Further, let them know about your interest in that sector or role, and that you would like to spend some time following an experienced professional on the job of your interest in their company.

  • Discuss the Arrangement: Once you find the conversation is heading in a positive direction, or you have managed to convince the person for shadowing opportunity, discuss about the arrangement. You may ask things like by when you can begin and for how long they can allow you to job shadow.

    Some companies even allow to continue through the whole of summer. If in case you just managed to arrange an interview, don’t fret as you can still explain and ask relevant things during that in-person session. In fact, it is a better way to put forth and explain your points.

So, once you have got the date to begin job shadowing in a company, you should prepare in advance to make the most of your experience. Here are some wonderful tips to follow.

  • Do Some More Research: The initial search might be just sufficient to get you inside the company. But to ensure that you easily understand everything while spending the day there, you should need to research more about the organization and particularly the job of your interest.

    A prior research will eventually help you to involve in various processes, meetings and conversations during your day at the company in a much better way.

  • Show Up on Time: With a notion that job shadow is less important than a formal internship or part-time opportunity, you may think that being late or postponing the appointment will not make any difference.

    But remember that the same company can be your prospective employer or the person you will be following the whole day might be your future boss. Hence, be on time and punctual during your days in the company.

  • Prepare Questions in Advance: It is likely that you will get the opportunity to ask questions from the employee you will follow. So, even when you know that most questions will pop into your mind during the actual job shadowing, it is a great idea to prepare a few beforehand.

  • Be in a Formal Attire: Even if you are not going to actually work at the company, remember that it is still a serious workplace for other employees, especially the one you will follow. So, always show up in a formal attire.

    Well, the definition of professional clothing may differ from organization to organization. Therefore, clear up your doubts by asking your counselor, the company HR or even the employee, who you will follow.

  • Keep Something to Note Down: Not everything you will be able to remember or recall later. So, it is good to take a note of suggestions, tips or anything related to the job that you think is worth penning down.

    Besides, you may also need to write down questions during different phases of your job shadowing experience (that you will probably discuss at the end of the day). Hence, bring a pen and notepad, so that you don’t miss out on anything important.

  • Choose the Right Time: For job shadowing, select the time that suits you the best – usually when you have availability for a couple of days in a row. It could be a winter, spring or summer break

    Professionals, who are already working somewhere, should ideally plan in advance since they may be required to apply for leaves for those days that they will spend job shadowing.

    Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind the job schedule of the person to be followed. For instance, if you want to shadow a teacher or lecturer during your breaks, it is quite likely they won’t be available during that period. So, plan according to your as well as the employer’s schedule.

  • Forget about Your Phone: While this is more about a personal choice, it is always good to switch your mobile phone while job shadowing. In fact, many companies don’t allow to carry such devices on the work floor.

    However, even if you are allowed to, switch off your mobile to avoid being distracted by phone calls and messages. Attending calls and getting busy with your phones doesn’t look good when you are following someone at his/her workspace. This will simply show that you are not serious about your motive behind following him/her.

    In case you can’t afford to remain completely disconnected, keep your phone on silent mode. Attend calls if it is really urgent, but only after seeking permission from the employee you are following.

  • Follow Up: Usually done with support from established professionals, job shadowing helps people looking for a new job or career change. So, if you get any such opportunity, be professional, respectful and grateful to those, who have made it possible for you.

    Never forget to thank personally or in writing to the employee, who has given you the opportunity to learn from him/her and gain insights into the job of your interest. Shortly after the job shadowing experience or on the last day of shadowing, consider meeting the employee to carry out the follow-up session about your observation and learning experience.

    Make sure to stay in regular touch with that person after job shadowing as he/she can prove to be a really valuable networking contact once you begin your job hunt expedition.

Takeaway

Job shadowing can be a unique and advantageous experience both for school/college grads and those looking for a career change. The steps mentioned above can guide you through various phases of job shadowing –right from approaching the company to developing a professionally valuable connection with the employee you would be following.

So, try to take complete advantage of such an opportunity with sheer punctuality and dedication (just like a full-time job opportunity). Remember, the experience itself as well as the employee can be instrumental in landing you your dream job.