What is work shadowing and how to make the most of it?

Job shadowing tips
Created by Cake

For young adults or career changers seeking to enter an industry, classrooms often don’t have much to offer. There are times when shadowing a professional can teach you more than a textbook can. 

A job shadow, or career shadowing, gives you a peek at “what it’s like to be” do a certain job. To shadow someone at work means following and observing a professional during their typical workday. For example, students who study computer science can do engineering shadowing. Students who study nursing or physiotherapy can also go to the hospital to job shadow a physical therapist or a nurse.

Common Job Shadowing Examples: 

  • Observing interviews and recruitment (HR shadowing)
  • Observe workflow and communication
  • Observing meetings and presentations with client
  • Complete office tasks and supporting work
  • Following hospital care procedures and communication policy
  • Learning about the policies and SOPs of offices
  • Learning about the missions and goals of the organization

The experience of shadowing a professional can be insightful and helpful. You get to determine if you are suitable for the job or reflect on the skills needed to do the work.

What is Job Shadowing?

💼 Job Shadowing Definition

Job shadowing is a learning method that allows a learner to observe someone in their work routine or practices. In a short period, the learner can understand the tasks and responsibilities of that employee and the requirements to take on similar roles.

Although most job shadowing opportunities and shadow programs are open to college or high school students, it’s also possible for adults to job shadow as well. 

Virtual job shadowing is a relatively new way of business shadowing. You will use online connections or join video conferences to observe employees throughout job shadow day. The benefit of virtual job shadowing is that you can reach offices thousands of miles away. It also costs less effort to organize and take part in.

💼 Benefits of Job Shadowing  

1. Help you explore your interest and passion

Job shadowing is a practical and helpful way to determine whether you’d be passionate about a job by showing you its reality. You can also ask questions to get a deeper understanding of the job to know whether the job interests you.

2. Help you decide your career path

Joining a shadow program helps you decide whether the job is a career you'd like to pursue since you get chances to ask questions directly to employees and understand the job from their point of view.

You can even get a couple of valuable resumes and interview tips.

3. Help develop network

Job shadowing gives you a chance to develop a network in your interested career field. The professionals you meet are useful resources in the future.

If you build good relationships with them, they might be willing to answer more questions, or even do an informational interview with you, after your job shadow program.

How to Job Shadow

Here’s how you should prepare for job shadowing to get the most of it.

✨ Choose an industry you’re interested in.

Consider the field you do a job shadow wisely. College students likely have an idea or two about their desired careers. High school students who haven’t given their careers much thought can start by brainstorming what piqued their interest and what skills they have and would like to have in the future. 

Tools like Career Aptitude Test can also help you to figure out which shadow program to join or possible industries for job shadowing.

✨ Research jobs and companies that interest you.

It’s essential to get a basic idea about the job before you job shadow. Do some basic desk research about the company or the person you are job shadowing.

Knowing the company’s culture and goals are just the basics of preparing for a successful career shadowing. Having a context of what the person is doing will make your business shadowing experience much more insightful.

✨ Find the right person to contact.

There are several ways to connect with a professional to arrange a job shadow.

For students, start by contacting teachers, school counselors, professors, or career centers about present shadow programs and companies that offer job shadowing. If there aren’t any, they might even be willing to share personal contact or set up connections for you.

Another way is to contact the company’s human resources or public relations office. You can email the department to ask about potential job shadowing opportunities or call their company to understand which department can discuss this job shadowing chance with you. 

✨ Draft a job shadowing request email.

After you’ve reached out to the right people, it’s time to write a formal request email. To make a positive first impression, make sure your job shadow request email is clear, brief, and polite. Proofread your email before clicking the send button.

To start your letter, greet the person politely. Concisely introduce yourself and explain your intention. Ask for a chance to job shadow, or if they can introduce you to anyone who might have job shadowing opportunities. End the letter by expressing your gratitude for their time.

Your first letter doesn’t guarantee a work shadow opportunity. Therefore, move on to the next company until you find a professional willing to let you shadow them at work.

We provide you with a job shadowing request email sample at the end of this article.

✨ Prepare for job shadowing.

Once you find a professional that accepts your request, ask them about their expectations of you. For instance, when and how long you will be there, the precise location, and information about the person you will shadow.

Before the scheduled job shadowing, take time to think of questions you’d like to ask that would help you gain first-hand experience about the job that you wish to pursue in the future.

10 questions to ask when job shadowing:

  1. How would you describe your company’s culture?
  2. What makes this company unique and different?
  3. What is your company’s current and next goal?
  4. What is your favorite/least favorite part about working here?
  5. What are the most important skills for this role?
  6. What can I do now to prepare and get into this career?
  7. What are the essential characteristics of doing this job successfully?
  8. What motivates you to come to work?
  9. How did you get into this field?
  10. How did you advance to this job role title?

Lastly, dress in formal attire, turn off phone notifications and use a notepad to stay focused and attentive during work shadow. 

✨ Write a thank-you note. 

Remember to send a thank-you email to the professionals whom you shadow at work. Express your gratitude and let them know what you’ve learnd from this job shadowing experience.

Stay connected with the person you shadow, if possible. Cherishing the invaluable network you develop is also crucial for a successful career.

Tips for a Successful Job Shadowing Experience

🎯 Be prepared.

Being well prepared is fundamental if you want to get the most out of this job shadowing event. By thoroughly researching beforehand, you save precious time for the professional and yourself on the job shadow day.

You can do so by browsing the company website’s “About” page, media coverage, and LinkedIn news. In addition, check out the profile of the professional you’ll be shadowing. You can get an idea of their career path and skills before your business shadowing.

🎯 Ask for an office tour.

A workplace tour can give you a sense of how the company office is organized, how colleagues interact, the everyday atmosphere, or working hours. If you would like an office tour, reach out to your contact and ask if it is possible before the job shadow day. 

🎯 Show initiative.

Job shadowing is short compared to an internship or a part-time job. To enjoy your shadow program fully, you need to be proactive. For instance, you can ask to perform simple tasks or help with daily responsibilities to learn about the skills.

🎯 Be polite and greet everyone you meet.

While you are career shadowing, be polite with other employees in the office. Greet them politely and introduce yourself briefly to leave a good impression. Let them know you’re here as a work shadow. 

🎯 Take notes.

Don’t forget to document things you’ve learned in the work shadowing or scribble down additional questions that pop up. So you can remember the valuable information and at the same time, show that you are a learner.

Job Shadow Request Sample Letter

Subject Line: Job Shadow Opportunity Inquiry - Leslie Lee from Bedford High

Dear Ms. Kaur, 

I am Leslie Lee, a senior year student from Bedford High School, and I am trying to decide on my university major and exploring career possibilities. I am interested in pursuing nursing due to my passion for medical services and caring for others. 

I found your email via your colleague Sarah and decided to reach out. Your hospital shares a great reputation in the field, and I'd really like to observe how professional nurses in hospitals work. I believe the experience of job shadowing a nurse will be informational and inspring. 

Would you be open to letting me work shadowing a nurse for a few days to a week? If so, please let me know what time and day would be more convenient for you. I am available the entire of July. 

I look forward to hearing and learning from you, and thank you for your time!

Leslie Lee

With Cake’s resume builder tool, resume templates and resume examples, you could showcase your best qualifications to land your dream job. Try making a resume online (free download) now!

--- Originally written by Wu Chao Min ---

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