Are you unsure if the career you're pursuing (or thinking about pursuing) is right for you? Or are you interested in multiple fields but can't decide which one you like best? Job shadowing can help you figure out what you want—without spending the time and effort to land a job or internship.
Unlike informational interviews, which are short introductions to a position or industry, job shadowing is a little more of a commitment; you may follow someone around at their job for a whole day or you may meet with someone for a few hours to discuss their work. Here's how to get started.
How To Start Job Shadowing
First, find a person you're interested in shadowing. Consider the following resources to identify this individual:
- Your personal network: Family, friends, and past coworkers may know people in fields you're interested in. You can also check your connections on social media.
- Your current employer: If you want to shadow someone in your current company, speak to your manager about job shadowing as a professional development opportunity. He or she will be able to connect you with people in the fields you're interested in.
- Your school: Your college or high school may also have opportunities to shadow alumni or offer job shadowing programs. Ask your guidance counselor or someone at your school's career center if they offer job shadowing—even if they don't, they may be able to connect you with alumni or other resources.
Once you've chosen someone to shadow, email them, explaining how you got their information and why you'd like to shadow them.
Benefits Of Job Shadowing
By preparing questions, dressing professionally, listening closely, and taking notes, you'll have a successful job shadowing. You'll also gain the following:
You'll Learn More About A Career
Job shadowing gives you the opportunity to learn exactly what a job is all about—the responsibilities of the job, what a typical day is like, and the skills you'll need to be successful at this job.
You may be able to observe the work someone does, but the biggest way to benefit from shadowing is by asking lots of questions. That's the only way you'll get all the information you want. Ask the person you're shadowing what made them pursue this career, how they got to the position, what kind of education they had, and what they do every day.
You Can Explore Different Fields
If you're interested in a career but not sure if you really want to pursue it, you may be reluctant to apply for a job or internship because you don't want to get stuck doing something you may not like. Job shadowing can give you an idea of what the work in that field is like—without a huge time investment.
Ask about the challenges people in this field face, but also find out what they enjoy most about their jobs. These answers will help determine if it's a career you will love or if you'd rather pursue another field.
You'll Find Out What Company Culture Fits You Best
Work environments vary from organization to organization. Some are more professional and formal, while others are more casual and easygoing. Shadowing puts you directly in this day-to-day environment and will help you decide what atmosphere you're most comfortable with.
Observe what's going on around you—what does the space look like? What are people wearing? Is it loud or quiet?
Then, ask the person you're shadowing what they think of the company culture. You could also ask what kind of person would fit best with this culture.
You Can Make Connections
You never know whom you might meet when you're shadowing. While you're trying to learn more about the career and company, and not necessarily get hired, you could still meet someone who helps you get a job one day. Bring business cards and a few copies of your résumé, if you have them.
After You Shadow
When your day of shadowing is over, ask the person you've shadowed if there is anyone else you should talk to or resources you should check out. They may know someone or someplace that could provide even more information about the career or field you're interested in. And, of course, be sure to thank your contact for sharing their time and knowledge with you!