A job shadow is one of the most valuable experiences a student can take part of in college. However, it can also be a little daunting, not only during the actual job shadow (who wouldn’t feel a little awkward while following a stranger around their work?), but the process of finding and setting up a job shadow can be very complicated. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be. This post will guide you through how to successfully request a job shadow, along with some tips on how to find one!
1. Decide Which Career to Explore
To begin setting up a job shadow, your first step is to figure out what career and company you’d like to know more about. You may have some initial ideas, but if not, think about some of your interests and hobbies. Your school may also administer a career test that you can utilize for ideas.
Here’s some ideas to get you started off:
- What do you do in your free time?
- This can be a major (yet subtle) indicator. Whether you like to read, do crafts, play music, or tutor children, exploring careers in the fields you associate with the most can give you some great ideas for future careers.
- What are you skilled at?
- Your skills play a major role in your life, so why not explore careers associated with them? If you’re the skilled chef in the household, maybe consider culinary careers. Or if you’re the famed babysitter of the neighborhood, look into early childhood education. Your skills are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to career exploration.
- Which subjects do you perform best in?
- The subjects we perform best in throughout school can indicate fields (and therefore careers) that we’re either more interested or skilled in, so take some time to look through your school subjects as a wide field of careers, and then try to narrow it down!
- What fascinated you as a child? What fascinates you now?
- The best job is one that intrigues and fascinates us every day. So take some time to think about what fascinated you as a child, as well as what fascinates you now. These can be some major indicators of what you should pursue a career in.
However, when deciding what career to explore for your job shadow, it’s important to note that some careers may be harder to shadow than others (due to location/career interests). For example, it may be hard to shadow a salt water marine biologist if you’re living in the middle of Kansas.
The best way to determine whether a career is available in a certain area is to do a simple web search. For example, you might type “architecture firm in Dallas” to find places that would offer a career within architecture.
Once you find some companies that employ people in that desired job field, it’s time to contact them and (hopefully) secure the job shadow.
2. How to Request the Job Shadow
I have found that there are 3 main ways to request a job shadow:
1. Refer to the Company’s Website
Once you’ve found a company you’d like to job shadow at, take a look at their website.
Some companies may receive job shadow requests often and will include a job shadow request form on their website. This is how I requested my first job shadow, which was with a set designer for a local theater company. With this form, I was able to select which theater career I wanted to shadow, the preferred date of the job shadow, any additional notes, and so forth.
2. Network through a Family Friend
One of the easiest ways to set up a job shadow is to shadow with someone either you or your family is familiar with. Not only are they more likely to agree to the job shadow, but you may get to be in a more relaxed, truthful atmosphere, as you likely already know the person and can skip some of the formalities and introductions. (Versus how formal and awkward it may be if you’re following a stranger around for an entire day.)
3. Email the Company
Sometimes, there may not be a form to fill out or a family friend to network with, which means that you will need to contact the company directly.
The best way to do this is by writing a formal email to a representative of the company (such as a secretary).
In the email, introduce yourself and explain why you are emailing them. Let them know what career you’re interested in shadowing and ask if there is an employee whom would be willing to let you shadow him/her for a few hours. If the job shadow is a school requirement, let them know of any requirements of the job shadow (such as how long it needs to be, if you need to do any interview questions, etc.). At the end of the email, thank the representative for their time in considering the matter.
Tips for a Successful Job Shadow Request and Job Shadow
When both requesting and taking part in a job shadow, there are several tips for making it a successful one:
- Make a Good First Impression
- When requesting your job shadow, make a good first impression. Use a professional email address, a professional email with no misspellings or grammar errors, etc. This also extends to when you’re shadowing them: dress professionally, be polite, and come prepared with plenty of questions.
- Request the Job Shadow Early
- Requesting a job shadow early is of extreme importance, especially if it’s required by your school. You never know whether they have an upcoming business trip or vacation that will make them unavailable for a job shadow. That being said, send your request in early with several dates to choose from!
- Thank Them for Their Time
- This is one of extreme importance. After all, they’re taking the time out of their day to show you what it’s like to work in their job and their company. So at the end of the job shadow, thank them for both everything they have taught you and the time they set aside for you to shadow them.
- Send a Thank-You Note
- The day after the job shadow, send them a letter thanking them once again for their time and everything they taught you during the job shadow. You may be applying to that company in a few years, and by having setting great first impression, you’re a step up against the competition, which could possibly land you the job.
Job shadows are an amazing opportunity for students to discover their dream career and the steps they need to take to get there. By reading these tips, you now know how find a career to explore, request a job shadow, and have a successful job shadow experience.
Still doubtful whether doing a job shadow is really worth it? Check out this blog post on Why You Should Job Shadow Before Your Senior Year.