What is Shadowing?
Job shadowing is an experience where you spend a day or a few days observing a professional on the job. While job shadowing, you can easily learn about different jobs and help decide which careers you would enjoy the most. You can follow a doctor making her rounds in the hospital, observe a teacher conducting class, look over building plans with an architect, or something completely different, depending on who you shadow.
Job shadowing is popular with students because it introduces them to different careers and helps them decide which jobs would be the best fit for them. Job shadowing for high school students is especially helpful because knowing which jobs you enjoy can help you decide on a major when you begin applying to colleges.
What Will You Do While Job Shadowing?
What you do while job shadowing depends heavily on where your shadow takes place.
In general, job shadowing involves following one worker, often called a mentor, as they go about their work day. A job shadow mostly involves listening and observing, but they often give you the chance to perform some simple job duties. For example, if you shadow a doctor at a hospital, you may be able to discuss different diseases and methods of treatment, be sent to pick up x-rays, and watch doctors interact with patients, but you won't be able to do things that require special training, such as draw blood or examine a patient yourself. You will get to see what your mentor's schedule is like, how much of their time they spend on different duties, who they talk to during the day, and what knowledge and skills they use.
You may focus specifically on one job or observe multiple jobs within a company. You will also usually have the chance to speak to other workers and ask them questions about their jobs and career paths.
A job shadow usually lasts one day, but there are cases when they can last several days to give you a more in-depth look at a certain career or company. To set up a job shadow, you just need to find a company who is willing to host you and available when you are. This means that they can take place at any time of the year. However, because most people work Monday to Friday, it is often easier to schedule a job shadow during the summer when you are not in school during those days. You may also be able to find an opportunity over a weekend or on a school holiday, or you may get permission to miss a day of school to attend a job shadow.
What Are the Benefits of Job Shadowing?
Job shadowing has many benefits for high school students, and three of the most important are discussed below.
Learn About Different Jobs
Usually, the biggest benefit of job shadowing is that it lets you directly observe different jobs so you can better understand what different careers entail. Shadowing a job can help you learn if it’s really something you would enjoy. For example, you may have always dreamed of being a journalist, but shadowing one may cause you to realize that you don’t enjoy all the research and editing they have to do. On the other hand, you may find a different job much more interesting than you originally thought it would be.
Job shadowing is a great opportunity for high school students because it lets them learn about different jobs in a risk-free way before they choose a major and begin to take college classes. It’s much better to learn which jobs you like and dislike now, rather than wait until after you’ve graduated college to learn that you don’t like any of the careers your major prepared you for.
Network With Professionals
When you job shadow, you will get the opportunity to speak with professionals in that field. Job shadowing typically involves spending the majority of your time with one person, your mentor, but almost all job shadow experiences also include interacting and speaking with other workers at the company.
You can use this opportunity to ask them about their job, what they like about it, what they dislike about it, and what advice they have for a student who wants to go into that career field. Making connections with professionals can also make it easier for you to find a job or an internship in that field down the road because you have already established a relationship with people working there.
If you had a great job shadow experience at a place where you'd like to work, try to nurture the relationships you created and keep in touch with the people you met. This can include sending them an e-mail every few months mentioning something you read or learned about that's relevant to their job, meeting them for coffee about once a year to discuss the career field and your goals, or applying for an internship there. There's a long period of time between high school and when you'll begin your job search in college, and keeping up with your relationships will help keep you fresh in their memory, so they are more likely to help you when you're looking for a job.
Be Introduced to the Workforce
Another benefit of job shadowing is that it lets you experience what having a job and being in the workforce is like. During your job shadow, you can get a better idea of what it’s like to go to work every day, interact with coworkers, and have a boss. This can be useful for students thinking about applying to their first job or internship because it will give them a better idea of what to expect when they begin working.
How Can You Find Job Shadowing Opportunities?
So now that you know how beneficial job shadowing for high school students can be, read on to learn how to set up your own.