Job Shadows: A Day In The Life Of Your Future Career
Do you ever wish you could have a trial run to see what your career will be like before applying for internships and graduating?
You can, by doing a job shadow!
Job shadows allow you peek through the window of your potential career and discover if you are on track for a career you’ll love, or if you need to reconsider.
Before you are nearing graduation and it’s too late to change your major, or you have already applied for or completed internships, you should find ways to test whether the career path you have chosen is really what you desire to do. Job shadows let you experience a day in the life of a professional in your field, and can give you great insight into your chosen career path.
- How to find a job shadow: The best way to find a professional to job shadow is by searching for people in your field near your college campus. For instance, I am a journalism major, so for my job shadows I contacted local news stations and newspapers asking different people if they would let me job shadow them. You want to find someone that is very specific to the career you may want…the more specific the better. If you want to be a pediatrician, shadowing a surgeon at a large hospital would be related, but wouldn’t necessarily give you an accurate enough picture of what your career would be like. Contact the person you wish to job shadow via email preferably. If you get no response, try calling the company/office or just assume you need to find another person to request a shadow with. Most professionals enjoy having someone shadow them and will be eager to share their knowledge with you, so don’t be afraid to start asking around.
- What you do on job shadow: Job shadows let you see a typical day on a job. You will most likely observe the daily tasks of the business/practice and potentially get to help out with different tasks if you’re lucky. You will also meet many people in the field while you are there, so job shadows also serve as a great networking opportunity (so make sure you are professional and introduce yourself as you go). The most important thing you can do on a job shadow is ask questions! You should be constantly asking questions, and be unafraid to bother your shadow, they expect you will be inquisitive. Asking questions is the best way to become more knowledgeable about the field you may go into. Be certain to ask specific questions about the inner workings of the job, not just about what you can already observe. This may take a bit of background research before the shadow, but this is the best way to truly gain insight into your potential career field.
- What to wear to a job shadow: Depending on the type of job it is, the appropriate attire will change, but no matter what it should be professional. This is not the time to wear your Budweiser hoodie and jeans; that’s the worst thing you could do. The rule of thumb for job shadows is business-casual attire. However, if you’re still unsure, feel free to ask the person you will shadow what appropriate dress would be, they won’t steer you wrong. Also, be sure before doing your job shadow you speak with the person you will shadow and find out what you expect to be doing or participating in during the shadow.
A quick story about that: I shadowed a sports reporter for WLNS in Lansing, MI and I was told to wear business-casual clothing. So I wore dress pants, a blouse and heels and my pea coat, scarf and gloves. Little did I know we would be outside for three hours at the high school football playoff games filming the game. My feet were so numb they were turning purple, and let’s just say heels aren’t exactly made for football fields or any grass for that matter. So be sure you know exactly how to dress.
- How to make your job shadow 100% worth it: Research the person or company you are shadowing before your job shadow. Being prepared with knowledge about the company and having questions prepared will make your time shadowing worth it and helpful. If you know nothing about the person or business you are shadowing you will have nothing to be curious about to learn more about your potential job field.
- If you don’t like your job shadow: It’s very possible that after spending a day seeing the inner workings of your field you may decide you want to go in another direction. This happened to me. I shadowed a sports reporter at a news station and he was very honest, yet very negative about the field and what it takes to be successful. After hearing about the types of hours I would have to work, the politics of the business and the low pay, I decided maybe I should stick with print journalism instead of broadcast. Having a bad job shadow experience is not always a bad thing, however. A bad experience can sometimes teach you more than a good experience, because you’re exposed to a bad day on the job, and you can decide for yourself if you can handle it, and if not, maybe reconsider your career path.
All in all, job shadows are a great way to network, learn about your field and get experience in a professional setting.