How to Decide Who to Job Shadow

Here's how to decide who to job shadow

Flickr user eltpics

Job shadowing someone is a great way to learn information about careers you’re interested in. You likely have an intended career path or field, making some decisions easier than others. If you want to get into wedding photography. For example, you’re not going to follow a muralist or an HR head. But figuring out who you’ll actually be following around can be a little trickier. Here are a few things to get you started.

Do Research

You can find out a lot just from Google searches or even looking up companies in phone books and making a few phone calls. Talking to HR to see if the company is open to shadowing, or knowing which doctor/scientist is doing what can be really helpful.

Talk to Your Contacts

In lieu of initial research, if you know someone who either does your dream job or works for a company that might have shadowing opportunities, talk to them. Family members, family friends, members of your church, someone in your student organization, college and high school instructors, whomever, they’re going to give you a leg up in finding someone to shadow. At the very least, they’ll decrease the amount of research you have to do. It’s a lot easier to get in with a company if you know someone who works there.

Know What You’re Asking For

If you were to say you wanted to work in Psychology, you’d have to specify what sub-field. Clinical, social, psychiatry, school psychology, developmental: These are just a few options. Now, it could be that you want to use shadowing as a way to explore these different sub-fields. If so, great! Most professionals will be happy to help explain the nuances of their particular job. But if you know you really want to get into cognitive psych. You might not get as much from the experience of shadowing a social psychologist.

Keep Your Mind Open in Your Job Shadow Search

As was just stated, knowing what you want from your shadow position is important. But sometimes your access to your exact job is limited or non-existent. At this point, finding someone with a similar position will still be a worthwhile experience.

Start Calling for Interviews and Shadowing Opportunities

There’s a minimal chance you’ll get to shadow someone without talking to them first, and you’ll probably have to go through Human Resources or the department head as well if it’s a larger company/clinic. But, having done your research, you should have a nice little list of possible fits. This is not a time to be scared of rejection. Explain your position as a student and your interest in the job. If people say they don’t want a shadow, accept it and move on.

 Try and Have a Chat With Your Shadow-Caster

If you can, talk with the person you might be following before a sure decision is made. Ask what might be expected of you: Will you only observe, or will you get a chance to do some work? See if they are receptive to questions throughout the day, or if you can have a summary talk at the end of the day. Most importantly, see if your personalities will gel. Mentors can have a large impact on your perception of a position (it’s always nice to learn about a job from someone who enjoys what they’re doing), so if you have some qualms, speak up.

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