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Shadowing & Professional Observation

Part of Drake’s commitment to ensuring students are adequately equipped for life following graduation is connecting them with hands-on learning opportunities (internships, research, service projects, and relevant part-time work).

In addition to those options, another alternative is job shadowing.

When you complete a job shadowing opportunity, you not only observe a professional in action, you are also exposed to the company’s culture and standard practices; providing you with a better idea of the day-to-day functionality.

Through shadowing, you will discover:

  • What an average workday entails
  • Which skillsets employers favor
  • Gain a high-level understanding of business operations

Generally, participants walk away with a greater understanding what it takes to be successful in their desired career.

10 Ways to Maximize Your Job Shadowing Experience

Another major benefit of job shadowing, you can do it anytime.

Unlike other programs, job shadowing is not restricted to a certain level of education, offered upon completion of certain courses, or require previous experience.  

Here are 10 ways you can maximize your job shadowing experience:

1. Research local businesses

Your goal is to locate as many companies within your local area which fill positions matching your career path.

Upon locating businesses, the next step is setting aside the more distinguished companies. It would serve you better to job shadow an employee of a businesses with proven years of success and growth.

2. Contact and inquire

Connect with a representative within each company and inquire about the different types of shadowing opportunities available. 

3. Determine your objectives

Before your scheduled job shadowing appointment, determine what you hope to gain from your experience.

Establishing objectives will help you focus on what’s most important and relevant to you, and decide what the next steps are to reaching your career goal. 

4. Know the office dress attire

You don’t want to look unprofessional in a setting where business casual is required. This may be a company you wish to apply to in the future. How you dress is important in making a good impression.

5. Get online and review the company website

It is not wise to ask questions which are available on the company website.   

Depending who you shadow, they may perceive your lack of knowledge as laziness. If the person you are shadowing doesn’t perceive you value their time, it is likely they will not go above and beyond to show you the ropes.

Asking questions not available on the company website, or for clarification on a specific portion of their site you read will show an eagerness to learn.

The more inquisitive you are, the more you’ll learn.

6. Arrive early

If someone allows you to shadow them, remember, they are doing you a favor!

Therefore, plan to arrive early. It is important you respect their time.  Since they will be responsible for you, it is likely they will accomplish less tasks during your visit.  Much of their time will be spent explaining different functions of their job and possibly providing you with a company overview.

7. Bring a notebook and pen

It’s likely you may be presented with a significant amount of information.

Having a notebook handy will allow you to write important points down, remind you which points you need clarification on, and will provide you with a perfect resource to reference when you’re ready to enter the real world.

8. Act professional

Regardless what the company culture may be, always put on a professional front.

This will better your chances of being considered for a future position with the company should you apply. The way you carry yourself could influence whether the company will consider you to be a serious candidate.

9. Protect company information

All internal company materials are confidential.

It is important you respect the company’s policies around the sharing of information. Ignoring their request for confidentiality may not only damage your future with the company, it could even lead to legal action.

10.  Follow up with a Thank You

Sending a handwritten thank you to the individual you shadowed is a professional gesture which will likely be well received and remembered.

Handwritten notes show more sincerity than emails.

Within your handwritten note be sure to speak on specific topics you learned and how the experience benefitted you personally. 

Asking the Right Questions

Questions should be geared toward the next steps in acquiring your desired profession, including what key skillsets employers are seeking.

Below is a list of potential questions you could use during your job shadowing appointment: 

  • What advice would you give someone wanting to get into your industry and/or your particular company?
  • What trends are currently affecting your industry?
  • What classes should I consider taking if I want this career?
  • What experiences/internships should I have if I want to pursue a career in this field?
  • Are there any publications I should be looking at to keep me informed?
  • Are there any professional associations you recommend I join?
  • How has the field evolved – past, present, and future?
  • What kind of personal traits, interest, and styles match this job?
  • How does technology impact your career?
  • What do you personally enjoy about your job?
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