What is Job Shadowing?
Job shadowing is a career exploration activity that offers an opportunity to spend time with a professional currently working in a person’s career field of interest. Job shadowing offers a chance to see what it’s actually like working in a specific job. Not only do job shadowers get to observe the day-to-day activities of someone in the current workforce, they also get a chance to have their questions answered.
Career exploration is the second phase of the career planning process. Once the first phase of self-assessment is completed, it is then time to learn more about the vast array of career options that currently exist. The internet today offers multitudes of resources in which to learn about careers.
Setting Up a Job Shadowing Experience
Counselors and volunteers in the Fairview College and Career Center can be of enormous help in assisting your search for potential job shadowing opportunities that may exist. Fairview alumni are a good place to start. Large organizations and government agencies also offer job shadowing programs for students. You may also check with organizations of interest to see if there is someone currently working in your career field of interest who would be interested in hosting a job shadower for one or more days over the course of the summer or perhaps during one of your school breaks.
Once you've located someone to shadow, write a letter or send an e-mail, allowing several weeks of lead time in advance of when you'd like to do the shadowing. (Here's a sample letter requesting a job shadow). Follow up with a phone call about a week later to pin down a date. Be prepared to be very flexible. The person you're shadowing is probably a busy professional who is going out of his or her way to accommodate you for the period of time you're asking for. While the idea is for the professional to go about business as usual while you observe, it's obvious that he or she may feel a bit restricted by your watchful eyes, so he or she is doing you a big favor.
Preparing for the Job Shadow
You will also want to make a good impression at the job site so be sure to check out the dress code before arriving. If you have been corresponding with your job shadow sponsor, don’t hesitate to ask about appropriate dress code for your visit. Since job shadowing is similar to information interviewing, preparing a list of questions beforehand is essential to getting the most you can out of the experience. Once the shadowing experience is over, be sure to immediately send out a thank you note that highlights what you enjoyed most and that expresses your gratitude for the time and effort the job shadow sponsor took out of his/her busy day.
Exploring Careers through Job Shadowing, By Penny Loretto, About.com Guide
Research Companies and Careers Through Job Shadowing, by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.,