What is Job Shadowing?

What exactly is job shadowing?

Flickr user Joel Sow

While deciding on your major and potential career, you may have heard the term “job shadowing” thrown around. But what exactly does it mean and how does it affect you? Here’s a quick run down on how job shadowing could be a vital part of your career planning process.

What is Job Shadowing? 

Job shadowing is an activity where you can “shadow,” observe, and follow someone in your potential field while the professional is at work. Usually for a set period of time, shadowing can last anywhere from one hour to a week or longer. It all depends on the program, employer, and industry.

This is the time to observe the career’s culture, explore, and ask questions. However, it’s important to understand that job shadowing is different (and much shorter) than an internship. You most likely will not be “hands on” and you won’t be gaining any career experience. Job shadowing is solely to understand what the professional does in their day to day activities.

Why Should You Shadow a Job?

The benefits of job shadowing can’t be understated. This period of time will give you a serious look into a career you’re thinking of pursuing. It takes all the walls down and clears up any perceptions about the job you may have had, showing you what really goes on in the career from day to day.

Shadowing, therefore, lets you know if this line of work truly is “for you.” You may discover it’s everything you hoped and dreamed, boosting your motivation for college. However, on the other hand, you might find it’s nothing like you thought and decide it isn’t something you wish to pursue.

The insight can help you decide whether you should continue with your college majors, pursue a different career path, or research the field further. If you found the career wasn’t what you wanted, the experience allows you to change majors and shift job fields before you’ve spent more time and money on the industry.

How Do You Find a Job Shadowing Experience?

Many industries offer job shadowing experiences and students need only ask to take part. Other employers may have never been approached before, but will be open to the idea if you ask.

However, if this intimidates you or you’re not sure who to ask, some colleges have programs that will find the employer for you. Talk to your career center on campus for more information.

It should also be noted that job shadowing isn’t only for college students! If you’re still in high school, there may be opportunities available for you and the experience may come in handy before you’re even declaring your major to your college. You can also ask employers in your area or talk to your guidance counselor for assistance.

There is absolutely no downside to taking part in job shadowing. It can give you valuable insight into a career you’re considering and let you know if it’s worth pursuing or nothing like you expected. If you’re interested in the experience of job shadowing and not sure where to start, make sure to talk to your counselor or career services department for more information.

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