How to Use Job Shadowing to Boost Your Career

By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC

www.theauthenticpath.com

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Job shadowing can help you find new opportunities that are good for you. This technique is often used to help students in high school and college however, established professionals can also benefit from job shadowing as well.

 

Consider these ideas to enhance your career with job shadowing:

 1. Explore new possibilities. Job shadowing allows you to explore new fields with little risk.

  •  You can try new career areas and discover a new way of looking at work. Shadowing a job helps you focus on the positive and negative aspects of the opportunity, and a commitment is not necessary.
  • If you’re thinking of entering a new field, then job shadowing is an easy way to see how it fits your current skills and needs.

 2.  First-hand experience can help you narrow down choices. By being in the workplace and seeing the daily interactions and tasks of someone with a particular job, you can make decisions that better support your goals. Each company has its own culture so shadowing can help you clarify which culture is a good fit for you. Is the office quiet? Loud? Does everyone have an office with a door or are there only cubicles? What are your thoughts as you observe? Where do you think you would be most comfortable?

 3. Dress appropriately. Ask questions before the job shadowing begins so you can dress appropriately for the position.

  •  Is the office business casual or does everyone wear a suit and tie? By dressing the same way, you’ll blend in better and gain more respect. You’ll also discover if you’re comfortable with the dress code.
  • Your questions matter. This is the chance to show the office your ideas and skills. Although it’s important to ask questions, they need to be related to the work being performed.
  • Prepare your questions in advance and add on as you move through the day.
  • It’s important to keep your schedule open and accept changes. These may be unique opportunities that offer your career an incredible boost.
  • You may be presented with a great deal of information and ideas as you job shadow. Notes can help you keep track of the important points. You can also use them to keep a list of your questions as well as notes for future follow-up.
  • Taking notes shows other workers you’re interested in the job, you are professional, prepared and want to learn more.
  • Although taking notes can help you, pay attention to the policies in the office. If notes are avoided during certain meetings to protect client privacy, be respectful of the rules.

 4. Discover the details. Job shadowing gives you a unique chance to ask those involved questions about their career and work-life balance.

5. Stay open to changes. Job shadowing can involve more than sitting in an office all day and watching others work. You may be asked to join them in meetings at restaurants or attend events at other offices.

  6. Bring business cards. Consider making your business cards unique and professional so people will remember you and be sure to bring more than you think you’ll need.

You don’t want to run out and look unprepared. Offer a card to everyone you meet at the job shadowing opportunity and let them know you are open to connecting on LinkedIn.

7. Take notes. You can use a digital device or a traditional notebook.

 8. Send a hand-written thank you note to multiple people. Although online communication is faster and easier, hand-written thank you notes can make you stand-out.  

  •  Taking the time to write a note by hand is important. Also, sending notes to more than one person matters. All of the people who took the time to help you or answer questions deserve a note and a personalized message. People in power also deserve a note, along with a personal message to help them remember your meeting.   

Job shadowing offers you the chance to experience a new field and learn more about a career. Taking full advantage of this opportunity will help lead you down the path to success in your chosen field.

Additional Resources

6 Simple Steps to Discover Your Ideal Career

At a Professional Crossroads? How to Choose the Path That's Right for You

What Should I do with my Life?

Changing Careers in Midlife

Contemplating a Career Change

Discover Your Strengths to Find the Right Career for You

How to Discover the Career of Your Dreams

How to Plan a Career Change

How to Reinvent Your Career

How to Turn Your Dream Job into a Reality

Increase Your Feelings of Security During a Job Transition

Stuck in an Unrewarding Career?

Take Your New Career for a Test Drive First


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