Exploring Careers through Job Shadowing

Job Shadowing Offers a Unique Opportunity to Learn More About Careers

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Job shadowing is a career exploration activity that offers an opportunity to spend time with a professional currently working in your 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 already employed in the industry you're interested in, job shadowers get a chance to have their questions answered.

Explore Your Career Options

Career exploration is the second phase of the career planning process. Once the first phase of self-assessment is completed, it is then time for you to learn more about the vast array of career options that currently exist. Of course, the internet offers a multitude of resources from which you can learn about careers. O’Net OnLine, The Occupational Outlook Handbook, and WetFeet are just three of the offerings. You can also check the Career Services Office at your college to see if they can recommend additional resources. In addition to reading about the career options that exist, gaining exposure and first-hand experience through job shadowing (as well as internships) can make the difference between assuming what a potential career would be like and experiencing it first-hand by working on-site. 

How to Snag a Job Shadowing Experience

First, check with your college to see if they offer a formal job shadowing program through their Career Services Office.

If not, career counselors can be an enormous help in either helping you find a potential job shadowing opportunity or pointing you in the right direction. The alumni of your college may also know of businesses (either large or small) that offer job shadowing and government agencies often offer job shadowing programs for students.

Don't be shy about going direct and reaching out to any organization that interest you to see if there is someone currently working in your career field of interest who would be interested in hosting a job shadower.  Even it's for a few days over the summer or during one of your college breaks the experience would be helpful.

How to Prepare for Your job Shadow Position

You want to make sure you make a good first impression so be sure to check out the dress code beforehand. If you're in contact with your job shadow sponsor, don’t hesitate to ask about the appropriate dress code for your department or team. Because job shadowing is similar to information interviewing, preparing a list of questions beforehand is essential to getting the most out of the experience. Once the shadowing experience is over, immediately send out a thank you note that highlights what you enjoyed (and learned) the most and express your gratitude to the job shadow sponsor who took the time to work with you.

Job Shadowing for Career Changers

Job shadowing can also be a good path for those in the process of changing careers. Not only can a job shadow provide more information than you'll find online, it offers a first-hand look at the culture of the organization.

The importance of a good cultural fit can't be underscored enough. In addition to possessing the relevant knowledge and skills to successfully completing a job, fitting in with the overall culture and getting along with team members is crucial to not only your success but happiness. Career changers possess a lot of transferable skills that they can bring to a new job. However, depending on the nature of the change, additional training or education may be required.