Whether you’re a high school student, college student or someone who is interested in exploring new career opportunities, job shadowing is something you should consider. Job shadowing is beneficial because it allows you to get an overview of a position and a deeper look at the day-to-day functions of a job or position without having the commitment of being employed. It's a great way to get your feet wet and determine if a field interests you.
Some high schools have programs set up where students can job shadow people in the community or do an internship for class credit.
From what I’ve seen, job shadowing is most popular among college students. If you’re in college, my advice is to set up a few job shadow opportunities in fields that you’re interested in before declaring your major. Like I mentioned earlier, this will give you a chance to get your feet wet and explore a few career options before signing paperwork related to your college major. If you aren't able to job shadow before declaring your major or if you feel that you’ve made up your mind on the field that you’d like to go into, you can always try to set up a few job shadow opportunities directly related to your line of study.
Here are a few things you can do to set up a job shadow opportunity in your potential line of work:
Get in touch with your local Chamber of Commerce
When I was in college, I connected with my local Chamber of Commerce to see if there was anyone that they could pass my resume along to. They were happy to help me. Since I had reached out and asked about job shadowing opportunities, I was even invited to come to the next Chamber of Commerce meeting. During the meeting, I was able to network with several business owners in my town. I handed out my resume and spoke with many people about my skill set. This turned out to be really beneficial for me, as I was able to set up a few job shadowing opportunities. Some of the opportunities even led to internship interviews.
Speak to your professors and teachers to see if they know anyone you could job shadow
Professors and faculty members at colleges are generally well connected and they know a lot of people that work in the field of study that they teach about. When I was in college, my professors knew a lot of contacts at local businesses and organizations. I know that if I were to have asked about setting up a job shadow opportunity, they would have helped me get in touch with someone at a business or organization in the community.
Reach out to someone in your field of study/industry on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is always a great resource to use when trying to find people to network with in your industry. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile already, you should create an account. It’s a great platform to use to stay connected to people that you may have networked with in the past. Additionally, you can follow companies that you’re interested in and create alerts so you’re always updated on new job postings or opportunities. I suggest using LinkedIn sparingly. You can feel free to send people messages to learn more about their background and if they would be open to you job shadowing them, but if you're going to look at their profile over and over, switch to anonymous mode. Of course you can do whatever you want and use the platform however you want (it's your account after all) but that's just my two cents!
Do research on a company you're interested in and send an email asking if they would allow you to job shadow for a day
This is a great way to inquire about job shadow opportunities. Lots of websites have “contact us” sections, so even if you can’t find someone’s email address, you can always fill out the contact form and submit your information/question. I do suggest trying to your best to find a person’s name and email address, but if you’ve tried everything and you can’t find any helpful information to get in touch with someone directly, using the “contact us” page is a good alternative.
Go the old-fashioned route and mail your resume and cover letter to a business to formally ask if you can job shadow
This might seem super old school, but mailing your cover letter and resume along with a handwritten note asking about job shadow opportunities can make an impression. Most people communicate via email while they’re at work. If someone is having a busy work week, your email to them could get lost in the shuffle. Sending your materials in the mail gives you a chance to stand out from others.
Ask family members and friends if you can job shadow them (if you have absolutely no idea what you'd like to do)
If you’re interested in a few different career paths and you’re not 100 percent sure about what you might want to do with your life, ask around and see if you know of any family members or friends that work in industries that interest you. It’s really helpful to see what different jobs and different industries are like, so this could prove to be a really valuable experience for you if you are interested in a lot of things and you need help narrowing down what you might like to do for a living.
As you can see, there are several different routes you can take to set up a job shadow opportunity! Try a few of the avenues listed above and see what works best for you. As you network a bit and make some connections, you should start to feel more comfortable asking people about potentially job shadowing them.
Have you ever job shadowed someone? How did you go about setting it up? I’d love to hear, so leave me a comment below!