Job Shadowing

Conducting online research and informational interviews are valuable ways to initially explore and collect information about possible career paths, but what better to learn about a particular role than by experiencing it for yourself? To learn more about a specific job or company, consider shadowing someone who works there. This allows you to experience a typical workday in your target role or industry, and can help you to decide whether it might be a good fit for you before committing to an internship or job.

What is a job shadow?
A job shadow is an educational experience that allows students to learn more about a particular career path, industry, company, or role by spending time with (“shadowing”) an experienced professional on the job, typically for one workday or less. In many ways, a job shadow is similar to an informational interview; however, job shadows provide the added benefit of combining in-person discussion with on-site experience.

Considering Job Shadowing

What are the benefits of job shadowing?

  • See first hand the day-to-day experience of a particular role or function
  • Further understand and witness a particular company’s culture
  • Clarify your career interests, objectives, and goals
  • Have in-depth conversations with experienced professionals
  • Become a more knowledgeable job or internship applicant
  • Get advice on how to get your foot in the door with a particular company or industry
  • Build your professional network

Questions to ask yourself before pursuing a job shadow experience:

  • What are my goals?
  • What do I hope to learn?
  • What aspect of the industry/position do I want to learn about (e.g., daily schedules, workplace culture, required skills)?
  • Have I considered a broad range of jobs to shadow within my field of interest? For example, if you are interested in publishing, you may want to consider a communications position at a business firm and/or a copy editing role at a tech company?

 

Identifying Someone to Shadow

Finding a job shadowing opportunity can be challenging and requires a creative and persistent approach.

When looking for someone to shadow, think first about your personal network. Consider reaching out to your friends, family, other members of organizations you have joined, faculty mentors, coaches, and current or former co-workers. Do they work in a field you want to explore? Or could they connect you with someone who does?

In addition to your personal network, Wellesley's alumnae network and career communities are great resources available to you when seeking someone to job shadow, or for an informational interview. You can search Wellesley's alumnae network through The Wellesley Hive and reach out to people whose career paths match your interests. Check out our guidance on The Hive to get started, or meet with your College Career Mentor to talk through the approach to this form of networking. In addition, tap into our Career Communities consisting of a Career Community Advisor, your fellow students, alumnae working in related industries, employers, and faculty for updates on events and opportunities related to your field of interest. Sign up for Career Community newsletters by filling out your Career Interest profile on Handshake.

Finally, LinkedIn is a great place to connect with other professionals in your field. Check out our LinkedIn Resource page to learn more about crafting your profile and using this tool. 

Requesting a Job Shadow

Requesting a job shadow will not usually be your leading question with someone you're meeting for the first time. Typically, you'll want to establish a relationship with someone first, or start with someone you already know. A great way to establish that relationship is by starting with an informational interview. If that conversation goes well, you could follow up by requesting to shadow that person for a few hours on the job. When requesting the job shadow, include an expression of your interest as well as a brief description of what you're hoping to learn from the experience.

Example Email:

Subject: Follow-up and Job Shadow Request

Good afternoon Ms. Shaheen,

Thank you again for speaking with me recently to share some information about your career path and current role. Following our conversation, I am even more interested in a career in non-profit consulting, and would love to learn more about your work at Healthy Hearts. I'm hoping to see what a typical day working in non-profit consulting is like and would like to know whether it would be possible to shadow you at work for a few hours at some point over the next month. I would really appreciate the opportunity to learn more about what you do.

Please let me know if this is something you may have time for, and if so, what type of schedule would be convenient for you. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you very much for your time.

Career Education Winter Job Shadow Program

In addition to these suggestions for finding someone to shadow independently, if you are searching for a job shadow during Wintersession you can apply for the Career Education Winter Job Shadow Program. This program engages alumnae and parents in cities across the country to host a student for a half- or full day at their current organization. See the job shadow program resource page for details about this year's program timeline.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Job Shadow Experience

Before
Making sure that you are fully prepared will help ensure that you get the most out of your job shadowing experience. Below is a list of steps you can take to prepare:

  • Research the person you’re shadowing.
  • Familiarize yourself with company or organization by looking at its website, LinkedIn, Vault, professional associations, industry publications, and the news.
  • Prepare a list of questions for the professional you’re spending time with, about the organization and about the work itself. Check out the list of questions on the Informational Interviewing resource page for some ideas.
  • Be prepared to answer basic questions about yourself and your career aspirations.
  • Confirm the day and time of your job shadow with your contact a few days prior.
  • Consider doing a test run of your commute to ensure that you know how long it will take you to get to your job shadow so you won’t be late.
  • Ask your host about the dress code so you can prepare to dress appropriately for their office environment. You are welcome to utilize the Career Education Suit Program if you would like to borrow professional clothes for your job shadow day.

During
On the day of your job shadow:

  • Dress appropriately, according to the dress code specified by your host.
  • Bring a notepad and pen.
  • Bring a copy of your resume just in case. You won’t want to proactively give this out, but in the case that someone asks to see your resume and offer feedback, you will be prepared to provide it.
  • Arrive 10-15 minutes early.
  • Turn your cell phone off for the entirety of the job shadow. This will minimize distractions and ensure that you are able to give your undivided attention to your job shadow experience.
  • Be alert and engaged with those you meet throughout the day. Introduce yourself widely, make good eye contact, and ask questions.
  • Try to show appreciation and enthusiasm throughout your job shadow.
  • Collect business cards of those you meet so that you will have everyone's contact information, for sending thank you notes and other follow-up.

After

Once your job shadow is complete, there are a few additional steps to take.

  1. Send a thank you message (usually by email) within 24 hours to thank your host for their time. This should be a thoughtful note that highlights some top points you took away from the job shadow and how they helped you.
  2. Everyone you met during your job shadow is now part of your ongoing network. Request to connect with them on LinkedIn and keep in touch with them as you progress throughout your time at Wellesley and beyond.
  3. Schedule an appointment with your College Career Mentor to discuss your job shadow experience and to start thinking about your next steps. Before your meeting, take some time to ask yourself the following questions and then discuss your answers with your mentor:
  • What did I learn about the industry and/or the professional’s role?
  • What surprised or excited me the most?
  • Am I still interested in this career path?
  • What concerns do I have about this line of work?
  • Can I see myself enjoying a job like this?
  • Does this career capitalize on my strengths and align with my values?
  • What skills do I need to gain or further develop to succeed in this field?
  • What information am I still missing?