Career Advice

Job Shadowing | What Is It?

by CareerFitter

What is Job Shadowing?

One of the best ways to learn about something is to observe someone else doing it. The old saying, “watch and learn,” has a lot of truth behind it. It has been estimated that over 60% of people are visual learners, meaning that they absorb information faster and retain it more easily when they learn through visual means compared to reading or studying about a particular topic.

It is for this reason that job shadowing is so successful. It gives people the opportunity to learn about a job or potential career choice first-hand by observing those who are already skilled in the field.

Job shadowing is an excellent way to learn about a specific job. It is a type of training method that allows students or candidates to spend time watching an existing employee perform their day-to-day activities. The relationship between visitor and mentor is based on education, as the mentor aims to display all of the usual tasks and skills required for their particular job. The term "job shadowing" is the perfect description for this training program as you will literally spend the day following and watching someone, just like their shadow.

Job shadowing can be either observational or hands-on. The observational method allows the shadower to view and make notes on the activities required to succeed at the tasks at hand.

The hands-on method of job shadowing allows the visitor to try specific tasks themselves under the direct guidance of their mentor.

The length of a job shadowing training period can vary greatly. It can range anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. This will depend upon the complexities of the job and how detailed the training program is.

How does job shadowing compare to an internship?

Internships are similar to job shadowing as they both allow you to gain valuable insight into a particular job position or career. There are, however, some significant differences between the two that are worth noting.

  • There is no remuneration for job shadowing positions.
    Job shadowing positions do not offer any type of payment since, in most cases, you aren't performing a great deal of work. On the other hand, many internships pay their interns for the time they work.
  • Job shadowing allows you to learn about a career.
    One of the biggest benefits of job shadowing is that it allows you to learn about a career before you take steps to enter into it. Job shadowing is excellent for high school students as it gives them the chance to find out if they are interested in a type of work before enrolling in college or university courses. Internships are designed to provide advanced, hands-on training to those who are already pursuing that line of work, and in many cases, may even be a requirement for successful graduation.
  • Interns are given more responsibilities.
    Interns are expected to perform a wide range of duties and are given a certain level of responsibility and autonomy during their internship. A job shadower will not have this same level of decision-making ability and will not be expected to perform many tasks without direct guidance from their mentor.

What are the benefits of job shadowing?

There are many benefits that you can gain from participating in a job shadowing training program. It is an excellent way to learn about different jobs and career types and can be the perfect way for high-school students to obtain insight into a variety of different fields that may interest them. Reading about a particular line of work can provide a basic level of knowledge, but seeing employees perform their duties first-hand is invaluable.

It also gives these students the chance to decide on a career before enrolling in post-secondary education. College and university course lists can be overwhelming, to say the least, causing many students to jump into a potential career blindly. A job shadowing opportunity will allow you to decide if a career is right for you and will give more detailed information on which courses and post-secondary education are necessary and which aren't. Plus, it allows you to network with those already in the field and develop a contact list that will come in handy when you begin your career.

Job shadowing also provides benefits to job-seekers. Obtaining a job shadowing position within a company can help you decide if applying for a specific position is the right choice for you. It will allow you to determine if you have the training and skillsets required to complete the job and give you the unique opportunity to ask questions to someone in the field who has experience.

What do you need to do to prepare?

A job-shadowing position can be an invaluable experience that allows you to learn a great deal of information about a specific industry. Being prepared for this opportunity will enable you to gain the most from your time there.

  • Choose the right job shadowing opportunity.
    Selecting the right job shadowing opportunity is imperative to ensure you get the most out of the experience. Prior to making a commitment, do your career research to understand as much as you can about that career.   Be prepared to show them you have the proper work personality for the job.  Taking a career test prior to job shadowing will confirm you are wisely investing your time and energy.  Also, take the time to review the company's website. Get to know everything you can about them to ensure that the work they do falls in line with your expectations. 
  • Create a list of goals and discuss them with your mentor beforehand
    Before beginning your job shadowing, it's essential to precisely determine what you hope to gain from the experience. Create a list of goals and expectations and discuss these with your mentor beforehand. If you wish to learn about specific activities or want to observe a particular process of that field, ensure that your mentor is capable of showing you. If not, find out if someone else within the organization is willing to provide you with the information you seek.
  • Choose your time wisely
    When you apply for a job shadowing opportunity, you want to ensure that you can immerse yourself in it completely. Choose a time that is convenient with your mentor but also allows you to focus solely on the job shadowing position. Depending on the length of time your shadowing will entail, consider weekends, spring, or summer break to get the most out of your experience.
  • Dress for success
    Depending on the field you will be shadowing, you want to ensure that you are dressed appropriately and professionally. This may mean investing in a new wardrobe. You can check with your mentor to ensure that you will meet any dress code requirements.
  • Come prepared
    Before beginning your job shadowing position, make sure that you are prepared. Make a list of all the questions that you have for your mentor, and bring along a notebook to make notes throughout the entire process.
  • Don’t forget to network
    Job shadowing is the perfect opportunity to build relationships with others in the field. Act professionally while on the job and introduce yourself to everyone you meet. Take down names, job titles, and contact information so you can stay in touch with key people in your chosen career. This may come in handy down the road when you are looking for a job. Also, don't forget to thank both your mentor and the company by sending out thank you notes once your job shadowing is complete.

Job shadowing is an excellent way to learn about a particular career to decide if it's the right fit for you. It gives you the perfect opportunity to observe a job's day-to-day requirements to see if this fits in with your expectations and skillsets.

Making a career choice is one of the biggest decisions that someone will ever have to make and can mean the difference between a long-term and fulfilling job and being unsatisfied in your chosen field. Taking the time to work with a mentor, ask questions and "watch and learn" will give you a wealth of knowledge and the power to make an educated decision about what you wish to do with your future. 

Invest in yourself by learning more about the careers that fit you best with a career assessment test to help you understand more about your personality strengths and best matching careers.

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