Job Shadowing is a career exploration activity in which students learn about a job by walking through the work day as a shadow to a worker. The job shadowing work experience is a temporary, unpaid exposure where a student follows an employee at an organization to learn about a particular occupation or industry. While job shadowing, students are able to ask questions and experience the trials, triumphs, small nuances, and normal day-to-day activities they might experience while working in that specific job. Job shadowing provides more insight than just reading a job description or asking an employee to describe what they do.
Learning and Development Objectives
As a result of participating in a job shadowing experience students will enhance their knowledge and skills; including:
- Demonstrating Professionalism: Gains experience regarding how professionals approach their job, conduct themselves in a workplace environment, and the tools that are needed to perform the job and be successful.
- Communicating Effectively: Conveys meaning in a way that others understand by writing and speaking coherently and effectively; writes and speaks after reflection; listens attentively to others and responds appropriately
- Realistic self-appraisal, self-understanding: Assesses, articulates, and acknowledges skills, abilities, and interest areas; uses self-knowledge and realistic career information to make decisions such as those related career choices.
- Problem solving: Gain insight into how employees solve problems and overcome barriers to accomplishing work goals.
A job shadowing experience typically lasts for six hours in a single day. Typically, students are scheduled to shadow from 10am-4pm to give their host unencumbered work time at the beginning and end of the day. A job shadowing sample agenda can be found here:
Specific Activities Covered
Job shadowing enables an employer to expose a student to a variety of perspectives within an organization and can include many components. Standard components typically include the following:
- Overview of organization, mission and functions
- Tour of organization facilities
- Overview of organizational chart and introduction to leadership
- Observation rotations in different functional areas of the organization
- Opportunities to meet various staff members in various roles
- Time for the student to conduct one or more informational interviews
- Reflection via discussion or a reflection paper
Benefits for Employers
- Spurring of interest in a particular industry among future generations of employees
- Developing of a potential pipeline of candidates from qualified applicants
- Marketing and name recognition among the area community as well as local colleges and universities
- Collecting new perspectives and ideas from students regarding processes, organizational branding, and more.
Benefits for Students
Job shadowing serves as an attractive alternative to students who desire to explore a specific career field but are unable to make the time commitment necessary for an internship. This exploratory experience enables students to do the following:
- Explore a particular industry and experience the “day in a life” of a designated career field
- Gather information on an industry culture, lifestyle, norms, and expectations
- Networking and “face time” with potential employers
- Professional development
- Expert insights regarding strengths, challenges, and potential career trajectories in a particular field
Typically, a job shadowing experience is unpaid and does not qualify for academic credit.
The employer will be asked to complete a survey through which they can reflect upon their experience, evaluate the professionalism of their student, and make recommendations for change. The student will be asked to complete a survey reflecting on the benefits gained from participating in the experience and recommended improvements to the program.
NACE Article: JOB SHADOWING: ORIENTATION A KEY FOR MAXIMIZING RESULTS