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Exploring Careers through Job Shadowing

Job Shadowing Offers a Unique Opportunity to Learn More About Careers

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What is job shadowing?

Job shadowing is a career exploration activity that offers an opportunity to spend time with a professional currently working in a person’s 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 in the current workforce, they also get a chance to have their questions answered.

Career exploration is the second phase of the career planning process. Once the first phase of self-assessment is completed, it is then time to learn more about the vast array of career options that currently exist. The internet today offers multitudes of resources in which to learn about careers. O’Net OnLine, The Occupational Outlook Handbook, and WetFeet are just to name a few. Check with the Career Services Office at your college to see if they have additional resources that they recommend. In addition to reading about the career options that exist, gaining exposure and first-hand experience through job shadowing and internships can really make the difference between assuming what a potential career would be like and actually understanding it based on personal exposure through an actual visit to the organization.

How to set up a job shadowing experience.

First I would 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 of enormous help in assisting you to find potential job shadowing opportunities that may exist. The alumni of your college are a good place to start. Large organizations and government agencies also offer job shadowing programs for students. You may also check with organizations of interest to see if there is someone currently working in your career field of interest who would be interested in hosting a job shadower for one or more days over the course of the summer or perhaps during one of your college breaks.

Preparing for the job shadow.

You will also want to make a good impression at the job site so be sure to check out the dress code before arriving. If you have been corresponding with your job shadow sponsor, don’t hesitate to ask about appropriate dress code for your visit. Since job shadowing is similar to information interviewing, preparing a list of questions beforehand is essential to getting the most you can out of the experience. Once the shadowing experience is over, be sure to immediately send out a thank you note that highlights what you enjoyed most and that expresses your gratitude for the time and effort the job shadow sponsor took out of his/her busy day.

Job Shadowing for career changers.

Job shadowing can also be a good activity for those currently in the process of changing careers. Not only can a job shadow provide more information than print or online resources, it can also offer a first-hand look at the culture of the organization. Besides possessing the relevant knowledge and skills to complete a job successfully, fitting in with the overall culture and other staff members is crucial to future success within any organization. Career changers possess a multitude of transferable skills that they usually can bring to a new job; but, depending on the nature of the change, additional training or education may be required.

If you have a job shadowing story you'd like to share, please take a moment to tell us your story online.

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