Job Shadowing

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Job shadowing is on-the-job learning where you observe someone in their natural career habitat, making note of responsibilities, organization, behaviors, and skills. It’s the closest thing to experiencing a job next to actually working in the position.

1. Figure out the Occupation You Want to Job Shadow
In addition to exploring different paths through classes, clubs, and career centers in high school and college, career aptitude tests are also available. Ask your school counselor or career adviser about taking one. This may give you some ideas about job opportunities.

2. Research
Remember: You have more resources at your disposal than your parents did, or even your older friends or siblings who were in your shoes not that long ago. Take advantage of any and all apps, websites, and social media networks.

3. Reach Out
If your school or college doesn’t have a job shadowing program, take it upon yourself to email professionals you’d like to shadow from your list of contacts. (Tip: Make sure your email address isn’t—you want to be taken seriously.)

If some of the professionals say no, politely thank them for their time anyway. If the person doesn’t have time for an in-person job-shadowing session, ask them whether you can simply email them a few questions instead. 

4. Be Prepared with Questions
Once you finally set up a job shadowing experience, write down a list of questions you have about the occupation. Some good ones include:

  • What’s a typical day like?
  • What’s your favorite thing about your job?
  • What’s your least favorite thing about your job?
  • What are your hours?
  • What did you study in college?

6. Say Thank You
After the job shadow day, send either a friendly email or an actual letter in the mail, thanking the professional for their time. Yes, it’s such a little thing to do, but it can make a big difference. 

Also connect with them on LinkedIn to stay in touch (especially if it turns out you really enjoyed shadowing their role). This person can be a good resource to you in the future.

You’ll be surprised by how many people enjoy walking others through what they do every day. It’s a refreshing change of pace to their routine. Plus, it also reminds them of why they do what they do in the first place.