Everybody has a dream job but is your dream job a good fit for you? Have you ever pondered over this question? Many high school and college students think they know what their ‘dream job’ is all about. When they land up with what they wished for, it may be a complete surprise!
‘Job shadowing’ is a wonderful way to get first-hand experience and a hint of what the job entails. You must be wondering what’s job shadowing and how can it help you.
What is Job Shadowing?
Job shadowing is a concept where someone can observe someone do their professional work. An aspiring candidate ‘shadows’ a person of the potential career for few hours, some weeks, or months to get a better understanding of what the career demands.
To make it simpler, if you aim to do accounting work, job shadowing or observing someone do accounting work will allow you to understand what the job involves in the real working environment.
It not only gives a person a chance to explore realistic situations but also helps in making an informed career decision.
During this time, a person gets opportunities to observe closely, ask questions, clear doubts, and explore options. Job shadowing should not be misunderstood as an internship.
Job shadowing does not count as work experience and mostly does not mean hands-on experience in a specific job. It is not an opportunity to gain any career experience but a chance to see if a particular job is up to your liking or not. Job shadowing is exclusively for understanding what a person is expected to do in a day-to-day routine in that particular profession.
Benefits of Shadowing a Job
There are many benefits of job shadowing. The opportunity to watch someone work closely in the same profession which you want to pursue can’t be understated. This is a prospect that gives a clearer picture of what’s involved, and what’s expected in this career.
It is a process of discovering, reflecting, understanding, and realizing if the career is truly ‘for you’. Job shadowing experiences can make people think about shifting their career plans before they land up in the wrong career. Once you complete a shadowing job don’t forget to write a thank you letter for shadowing a host. It may be a money, time, and stress savior for new career seekers.
1. Clear doubts: It is indeed a difficult task to choose a career. Often people are misled by other’s opinions or glamour of a particular job. Job shadowing gives the chance to clear doubts and ask questions. It helps to explore more about a career, ask questions like the educational requirements for the job, related job possibilities, how difficult is it to change the field later, advice of experienced people.
2. Personal experience: Job shadowing may be of different kinds. Some allow only observation and some permit a certain amount of hands-on job.
3. Interaction with employer: Home, college, and workplace are very different. By shadowing an employer, you will get to know how people behave in the office. It is a wonderful way to learn work ethics, office culture, employer behavior, ways to reduce stress, etc. It leads to overall development and understanding of how you are expected to behave in the office.
4. Thinking and problem solving: Every day is not the same in the office. Job shadowing an employer gives a chance to experience various problems that crop up in day-to-day work. You get to learn how to brainstorm, solve problems, implement new plans, and other things.
5. Identifying the best practices: By job shadowing, you can see what’s right, wrong, how to be organized, and how to manage time, observing someone’s work. This helps in correcting and systematizing yourself when you actually enter your career.
6. Networking: Job shadowing is an opportunity to build a strong network and make connections with people in the industry. It may help you seek recommendations from them in the future. They may even offer you a job if they find you suitable. Do not forget to write a thank you letter for shadowing them when you have finished job shadowing them.
Cons of Job Shadowing:
Without a doubt, job shadowing is a wonderful way to fortify your classroom learning with a hands-on, personal experience in a working environment. However, job shadowing has some shortcomings.
1. Difficulty in association: A professional is not a teacher who will go about explaining every step of his/her work. It’s up to you to observe, understand, and relate most of the job. This may lead to initial difficulties in understanding the work properly.
2. Clash in schedule: To be a good observer, you are required to follow the work schedule of a professional which may be completely different. There will be long hours, time clashes, and other difficulties.
3. Language problem: Every profession has a set of technical terms. To be able to understand, communicate properly, and speed up the learning process you need the knowledge of professional terms.
4. Lack of motivation: You can learn the best from a professional who is keen to do his/her job. People who are not motivated enough to give their best may not be the best people to observe and learn from. This could cause a delay in learning, missing out on important details, etc.
5. Limited information sharing: Many professionals may not feel comfortable sharing a lot of information with an observer due to trust issues. That may cause limited learning.
Types of Shadowing
Job shadowing can be done in different ways depending on the preference and convenience of the employee and an observer. They can be
- Through Observation – Spending time watching, and taking notes, understanding the role. Works better for students, fresh graduates.
- Routine Briefings – Short briefings by a host before and after a specific activity. Or, shadowing a professional on specific jobs over a period of time. Works better for professionals seeking a job change or department switch.
- Hands-on – shadowing – This is a step ahead of the observation method. The host allows the observer to perform certain hands-on under supervision. This works best for learning but is time-consuming.
No matter what kind of an opportunity you get, it is always important to write a thank you letter for shadowing to your hosts to acknowledge their help.
Is Job Shadowing Possible for Every Job?
Once you have decided your career options and want to spend some time shadowing a professional, there are certain things to consider.
- Do you have enough time?
- Are you genuinely interested?
- Is the career ‘job shadow’ friendly?
Certain careers may not be suitable for shadowing for their nature of work. Construction works, certain medical professions, certain research work, pharmaceuticals, etc. may not be possible to shadow. It may be due to confidentiality, safety, policy issues, and other reasons why hosts may not be comfortable having an observer. It is worth trying to talk to organizations to see if they can offer any alternative learning opportunities.
Certain fields like financial corporation, manufacturing units, legal firms, technology companies, and some medical institutions allow shadowing more than the others.
How to Go About Starting a job Shadowing Process?
Securing a job shadowing position is not always easy. Hard work, effort, and the right approach are required. Job shadow opportunities are usually not advertised publicly and that makes it more difficult to get. Where to start, who can help, who to contact, are certain questions that every job shadow seeker has in mind. It is completely up to you to approach individuals and organizations to allow you to work with them. Some things that might help are –
- Networking is extremely important to develop contacts
- Contact the school career center for a list of organizations
- Take help of the alumni association
- Approach people in the particular profession you know
- Apply for a job shadowing position in the particular organization of your choice
- Communicate and convince employers to permit job shadowing
- Contact hiring departments for job shadowing permission
- Send your CV and a cover letter to the organization explain your intent
- Contact possible job shadow hosts via telephone or email
- Send a thank you letter for shadowing when the job shadowing activity is complete
How to Thank a Host
It is extremely important to send a thank you letter for shadowing a host. Some points to remember while writing –
- Keep it to the point
- Mind your language
- Use correct grammar
- Begin with a ‘Thank You’ opening line
- Mention something specific which you learned or liked while shadowing the host
Job Shadowing Thank You Letter Templates
July 25, 2019
Subject line: Thank You for the Job Shadowing Opportunity
Dear Mr./Ms. (Host’s Name),
I want to extend my heartfelt thank you for providing me the opportunity to job shadow you for an entire week. It gave me a clearer understanding of what the (name of the trade) job demands.
The information that I received during the past week allowed me to clear my doubts and gain confidence. It will greatly help me in choosing my career.
Thank you once again for giving me time from your busy schedule and helping me take a closer look at the job. It was an invaluable experience for me.
X (Your name)
Template # 2
March 20, 2018 (Date)
Mr. Tom White (Name)
Personnel Manager (Host’s Designation)
AEC Accounting Firm
Dear Mr./Ms. X (Name),
Thank you for having me as a job shadow for a month. I know it was an additional responsibility and took time away from your regular work. I am extremely appreciative of you giving me the opportunity.
It was a wonderful hands-on experience and I gathered so much useful information that I could use in my future accounting career.
After getting work exposure in your company, I became more confident about my career choice. Thank you for your valuable suggestions and guidance regarding the subjects I should choose.
XYZ High School
Template # 3
May 20, 2021 (Date)
Ms. Barbara June (Name)
Manager (Host’s Designation)
Dear Mr./Ms. X (Name),
I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to job shadow you for two consecutive days. It was a great learning experience and helped me decide what I want to do in the future.
It was extremely kind of you to give your time and explain things in detail. It gave me a better understanding of business goals and the problem-solving approach used in the industry. I truly appreciate the friendly behavior of your staff.
It was a pleasure to spend two working days with you. Thank you once again for providing me with the opportunity to work with your reputed firm.
XYZ (St. Marks College)
August 14, 20xx (Date)
Mr. Sam Hill (Name)
Assistant Engineer (Host’s Designation)
Dear Mr. Hill,
Thank you for giving me your precious time on (Date) _______ for the job shadow activity. This opportunity helped me to understand what a civil engineering job is all about. I could get a closer look at the job and understand its intricacies.
I learned about the different fields of engineering and how they are different from each other. It will help me choose the right subjects and pursue my dream career.
It was extremely kind of you to offer me a part-time job during the summer break. I will be honored to join you on the special project. Thank you for giving me a chance to understand things better and make an informed decision.
Template # 5
February 18, 20xx (Date)
Ms. Leela Nair (Name)
General Dentist (Host’s Designation)
Spring Meadow Dental Clinic (Address)
Dear Ms. Nair,
My sincere thanks to you for allowing me to be your job shadow yesterday. It was a wonderful experience to see what a dentist’s job involves from a close quarter.
I was thrilled to get a hands-on experience while helping you as an assistant. It was extremely kind of you to give me your valuable time.
Yesterday’s experience will greatly help me in making my future decision about my career. I enjoyed learning about the job responsibilities, processes, and duties you perform.
Thank you once again for explaining to me the choice of work available for a dentist’s assistant. Being your job shadow gave me a better understanding of the role. I appreciate your guidance and support.