Hello, everyone! Last week, I wrote about why you should job shadow before your senior year of high school (click here to read it). But even if you are a senior, a job shadow can be a very valuable experience, if not a little daunting. After all, who wouldn’t feel a bit awkward when following a stranger around their job for a day?
I know that I definitely felt a little overwhelmed at the prospect of job shadowing (probably because I had to write a really long research report with it). Don’t worry though: The process of job shadowing is actually quite simple. You just set-up the job shadow, go to the location on a specified date and time, and follow an employee around for a few hours. If anything, setting up the job shadow might be the hardest part of the process.
To begin setting up a job shadow, you first need to figure out what career and company you want to job shadow at. You will have your own criteria and limitations on this due to your location, availability, and what career interests (i.e. it’s going to be really hard to job shadow a saltwater marine biologist if you are living in the middle of the continent). After you figure that out, you then have to find out a way of contacting the company to request a job shadow.
These are some of the ways to get in contact with a company and secure a job shadow:
- Look on the company’s website
- The first job shadow I did was in set design. The local theater company had an entire page set up on their website where students could request a job shadow for any theater career. Via their website, I was able to select which career I wanted to shadow, what date was best for me, any additional notes, etc.
- Networking through a mutual friend
- Some of my classmates didn’t formally go through a company, but instead networked with a friend’s parent/guardian or with a family friend. Doing it in this way makes everything so much easier since you probably already know (or at least have met) the person that you are job shadowing. In my perspective, it may also allow for a more relaxed atmosphere.
- Emailing the company
- This is how I requested my second job shadow and is most likely how you will need to request yours as well. To set up the job shadow, write a formal email to a representative of the company: Introduce yourself, explain why you are emailing, and discuss which career you are interested in job shadowing. Then ask if there is an employee in the company whom would be willing to let you shadow him/her for a few hours. At the end of the email, thank the representative for their time in considering this matter.
A general rule is that you should ask at least two weeks in advance, but as a safe margin you may want to allow three (or more) weeks; this is because the employee in your prospective career field may be on vacation, a business trip, etc.
I also can’t stress this to you enough: a job shadow can be your first opportunity to network in the industry. Making a good first impression is key. Be inquisitive, take notes, and pay attention. At the end of the job shadow, thank the employee for his/her time and send an additional thank-you note a few days later. You may be applying to that same company several years down the road; by having made that first good impression, you could get one step ahead of other job competitors, which could possibly land you with the position.
P.S. Do you have any questions or comments? Please write me a letter back (in the comments) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!