Job shadowing is an opportunity for you to see first hand what a typical day or week can be like in the career field you are interested in. It is a time to spend a few hours, days or weeks following around an individual or multiple individuals as they perform their everyday tasks and duties. Job shadowing can be benefical in exploring career fields and employers, in networking with professionals and in deciding if a career is or is not a good fit for you.
Find a Professional or Site
Start by identifying an individual or site (business, non-profit, healthcare facility, etc.). Keep in mind that some sites may require you to go through their human resources office or volunteer coordinator to be allowed to shadow. Healthcare facilities may have limited shadowing opportunites due to HIPPA privacy laws and liabilities (see our Healthcare Reference Sheet for information specific to shadowing in healthcare).
Make a list of family, friends, and neighbors that you know in careers related to your interests. Ask your parents, co-workers or others if they know of someone who might be willing to let you shadow. Look at you town, city or regional Chamber of Commerce webpage for ideas on what businesses and organizations are in the area. Check out our Gustie Jobs database for Interim Career Exploration shadowing opportunities.
Create a LinkedIn profile, join the Gustavus Alumni group and search for individuals at companies you are interested in, who graduated with the same major you are pursuing or who have a careeer you are interested in. Please note, you do not want to connect with every alum! LinkedIn is a professional social media site and you want to interact in a professional manner. Find one or two to people to connect with. See if you share a mutual LinkedIn connection to introduce you.
You can also make an appointment in the Center for Servant Leadership to meet to discuss job shadowing opportunities. Stop by the Center for Servant Leadership front desk or call 507-933-7272 to set up an appointment.
Make a Connection
Once you have identified the professional or site where you would like to shadow, make contact with them by phone or email. Introduce yourself and the reason for your call or email. Explain how you obtained their name or who referred you. Emphasize that you want to learn more about the career field by observing. Let them know what kind of time frame you are looking for -- a day, a week or an Interim Career Exploration in January. Keep in mind some sites will require you to request shadowing opportunities directly through their website.
An example would be:
"Hello, Mr/Ms. _______. My name is _______________. I am a currently a sophomore at Gustavus Adolphus College and am considering a career in ______________. I am looking for information on the career field and was referred to you by _______. I am wondering if you would have any job shadowing opportunities available."
Prepare to Shadow
Before you shadow, confirm with the person or site where you are shadowing the days and times that you have agreed upon for shadowing. Ask if there is a dress code, where to park and where to meet them. You can also research the career field you are interested in and the site where you are shadowing. Though you are not being interviewed, be prepared to answer questions about yourself, interests, experiences and goals.
Think about what you want to learn about the career field. Write a list of specific questions to ask the professional you are shadowing, if the setting allows for questions. Here are sample questions to get you started:
- What is a typical day or week like?
- What do you enjoy most about this position?
- What are the biggest challenges of your position.?
- What is your educational background?
- What are the entry-level opportunities in this field? What are the opportunities for advancement?
- What charateristics does a person in this field need to have?
- What are the trends in this field?
- What are some related occupations to this field?
- What should I be doing outside of my coursework to get into this field?
- What advice do you have for me?
When You Shadow
Different businesses, healthcare facilities, non-profits and other sites will have a different level of involvement for those who shadow. Take cues from the person you are shadowing or directly ask for clarification at the beginning of the day. You will want to:
- Arrive early, but not more than 15 minutes early.
- Dress professionally in business attire or business casual attire. If you are unsure of the appropriate dress for your site, please check with the person you are shadowing or your site in advance.
- Be friendly and professional.
- Thank them for taking the time to allow you to shadow.
- Be engaged in the process. When you shadow, you may only be allowed to observe. Clarify with the person you are shadowing your role and when it is appropriate or not to ask questions.
- Do not use your cell phone! No texting, making calls or using social media.
- Remember issues of confidentiality. What you see or hear needs to remain at the site. Respect the privacy of workers, clients, or patients, especially if you have signed a confidentiality agreement!
- Never ask the person you are shadowing for an internship or job.
- Thank them again! Let them know that you appreciate their time.
Always follow up with a professional thank you note to those you shadowed. In your thank you note, tell them that you appreciate their time and the opportunity to shadow. Write something specific you learned or a specific step you took based on their advice or your experience.
Keep a record of who you shadowed -- their name, title, location and the dates you shadowed. Take some time to reflect on what you have learned. Ask yourself what other kinds of information or experiences you need to make a good decision about your career goals. Shadow more than one person, more than one site and in more than one career field if you can. Compare these experiences to decide which aspects of the careers are a good fit for you and which may not be.
Receive Academic Credit
Our Interim Career Exploration program allows students who have sophomore status to receive Interim academic credit for job shadowing. Students job shadow full-time for the four weeks of January. For more information on how to receive academic credit, visit our Internships and Career Explorations webpage.
explorehealthcareers.org -- Making the Most of Your Shadowing Experiences
Updated 9/2/2013 CO