Modern Rules for Job Shadowing
By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC
Job shadowing pairs you with another employee who is doing the kind of work that interests you. By following them around for a day or more, you can study their role and see whether it’s a good fit for you.
In today’s rapidly changing job market, many professionals are taking a more creative approach to developing a fulfilling career. There’s even a National Groundhog Job Shadow Day. While Punxsutawney Phil has a weak record for predicting spring weather, you can use these tips to job shadow like a pro.
When to Job Shadow
1. Find your first job. Job shadowing can be like a short-term internship. Sample different workplaces and job positions. Gain inside knowledge about a day in the life of an account representative or management trainee or…..fill in the blank.
2. Learn more about your company. Reach out to your own colleagues. Spend next Monday in the mailroom or accounting department to see operations from a fresh perspective.
3. Switch careers. Increase your odds for transitioning successfully into a new field. Find out what it takes to be a social worker or a hotel concierge.
4. Pick up new skills. Wherever you job shadow, you can train on the job. Tackle management and leadership challenges instead of just talking about them in the classroom. Play undercover boss by visiting the customer service center and taking a call from a disappointed consumer.
Tips for Hosting a Job Shadower
1. Draft an agenda. Plan out your activities hour by hour. Offer variety by mixing up hands-on tasks with discussions and demonstrations. Allot time at the end to review your time together and answer remaining questions.
2. Strike up a conversation. Encourage give and take. A newcomer may spot issues that you are too close to notice. They may be curious about events that you’ve come to take for granted.
3. Tour the company. Treat your guest to a comprehensive view of your workplace. Visit several departments and browse the website. Ask your colleagues if they would be interested in sharing their expertise too.
4. Follow up. Give your job shadower some take-home materials and suggestions for additional resources. You may want to tell them about your professional association or loan them some books.
Tips for Being a Job Shadower
1. Search for leads. You may find professionals to shadow within your current network. Try using LinkedIn.
2. Do research. Show your host that you value their time and generosity by acquainting yourself with their organization and their profession. Study the company website. Talk with other employees in similar positions.
3. Pitch in. Take advantage of opportunities to engage in typical tasks. If your host shows you a database program, ask if you can take a turn practicing a query or two. If they mention an upcoming trade show, volunteer to assemble hand-out materials or proofread a speech.
4. Express your gratitude. Thank your host for sharing their time and wisdom with you. Tell them how they’ve helped your career. Send a note and a small gift basket.
5. Stay in touch. Make your job shadowing experience keep working for you. Invite your host to join your network on LinkedIn and other appropriate social media sites. Occasionally call or email them with interesting articles or updates about your career. Congratulate them when they’re in the news and consult them for advice when you’re making career decisions.
Extend your professional network and explore your career options. Job shadowing gives you first-hand experience to see what any job or industry is really like.