Whatever your plans are for this summer, most students are able to take one to three days to participate in a job shadow. In my experience, this is the amount of time it will take to start discovering if the career you’ve chosen to shadow is the right one for you. If the experience is good, you can then plan to get additional experience through an internship, or if you find that the career is not really what you thought it would be, you’ve lost nothing but a few days.
Job-shadowing can be thought of as an expanded informational interview.
Where an informational interview typically lasts about a half hour, a job-shadowing experience can be anywhere from a few hours, to a day, to a week or more, depending on what you can mutually arrange with the person you've chosen to shadow.
Many of the same rules apply to job-shadowing as apply to informational interviewing, from preparing for the experience, to scheduling it, getting the most out of it, and following up on it.
Since job shadowing is similar to information interviewing, preparing a list of questions beforehand is essential to getting the most you can out of the experience. Once the shadowing experience is over, be sure to immediately send out a thank you note that highlights what you enjoyed most and that expresses your gratitude for the time and effort the job shadow sponsor took out of his/her busy day.
3 easy steps to setting up a job shadowing experience
With the help of your parents or school counselor, identify the person you would like to shadow and collect their contact information. Determine how many hours or days you would like to shadow the person in order to get a better understanding of what this career is really like.
Call or personally speak with the person and explain to them what you would like to do (watch them in their workplace and perhaps ask a few questions) and when you are available to do it.
After agreeing on a time and place for your experience be sure to arrive on time, dressed appropriately.
Be sensitive to asking too many questions (shadows are quiet!), and be sure to write a thank you note afterwards.
After you have completed our job shadowing experience, write a one page summary of what you learned and how it has effected your career choice. Did it confirm your interest or help you realize the need to move in a different direction? Send your paper to firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be entered to win this month's $25 Amazon gift card. Your paper may be shared with other students or in the 5 Major Steps workshop as an example.