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How To: Arrange and Conduct a Job Shadow

How To: Arrange and Conduct a Job Shadow

By Kathryn Knight Randolph

May 27, 2014

Lacking summer plans? These days, you can’t afford to leave your resume blank for a few months. Outside of classes, you need to demonstrate to either colleges or future employers that you’re motivated, hard-working and dedicated to pursuing your desired major or career.

With that, it’s important that you explore some job shadow options for the summer. Job shadowing enables you to follow a professional in your industry in order to get a better understanding of not only the bigger picture of that particular career but the daily undertakings as well. A job shadow can last as long as the summer or as little as one day. And sometimes, you’ll just have to settle for an interview — a chance to ask someone in your desired field questions about their education, career path and current job responsibilities.

But first, you have to land that job shadow. Here’s how:

1. Research companies. Whether you’ve been dead set on a career since you were five years old or you’re trying to decide between 10 different fields, you should begin by researching careers that interest you. Next, look for companies in your area that have these opportunities.

2. Contact the company about job shadowing. Start with companies that you know of, specifically those at which you know someone personally. Reach out to those individuals first and ask about job shadowing opportunities. If you don’t know anyone at the company, don’t be afraid to call or email someone in the Human Resources department. Finally, if you can’t reach someone in HR, contact someone directly in the department with which you’re interested.

3. Know what to ask. Explain that you’re a student interested in that particular career or field and would love to spend some time following someone in the company for a period of time – whatever works for the company.

4. Talk logistics. Once you get the go ahead, discuss when and for how long you can job shadow. In some instances, the company will let you visit throughout the summer. However, don’t be discouraged if all you can squeeze in is an interview. Any face time is time well spent.

Once you’ve established a date, it’s time to prepare for your actual job shadowing experience.

1. Research even further. Your initial search may have been enough to get your foot into the door, but you need to know more about the company and their role in the industry to last a full day on the job. Doing your research beforehand will give you context for conversations, processes and meetings you see, experience and attend throughout the day. This follow-up research is crucial.

2. Show up on time, and keep your appointment. A job shadow is a lot looser than a part-time job or internship. With that, you may feel that it’s ok to blow off your appointment for a day at the pool instead. Showing up late or having to reschedule won’t look good, and these impressions matters. This company cannot only serve as a reference for you down the line, but they may also offer you a job or internship in the near future.

3. Dress professionally. Guys, if you don’t own a suit, a button up shirt with a tie will work just fine. Ladies, dress modestly and avoid lots of flashy, bulky jewelry.

4. Speak up and ask questions. The day of, don’t act like a legitimate shadow – without word or thought. Soak up meetings in silence, but when you have one-on-one time with the professional you’re shadowing, ask questions and use this time to talk about your academic and career paths.

5. Say thank you. Follow up the day with a thank you note or email to the person you shadowed as well as the individual or department that got you in the door. It’s important to not only make a great first impression but to leave a lasting impression as well.

Admissions committees and future employers will love seeing job shadow experiences on your resume. Plus, it provides you with invaluable work experience that doesn’t typically require you to spend every day of your summer break on the job. It’s not too late to find a job shadow opportunity – start your research now!


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