Learn More About Career Interests by Job Shadowing

After exploring different career areas and evaluating your needs and interests, you might have some good ideas of career paths and specific jobs that could be right for you. But which is actually the best option? Fortunately, you can give different careers a bit of a test drive by job shadowing.
A job shadow is exactly what it sounds like: For a short period of time, you follow an individual worker or a team and observe their work. Many companies encourage prospective employees to job shadow, and those that work with employment agencies or workforce boards will offer many opportunities to shadow.

Arrange Your Job Shadow

If you’re receiving career development assistance from your local member Goodwill® organization or another provider, or if you’re working with a virtual career mentor, you can ask about job shadowing options if they haven’t already come up.
If you need to make arrangements on your own, here are some simple steps to follow:

  • A state or municipal agency can probably point you to participating companies, or you could contact the human resources department of a company that interests you and ask if job shadowing is an option.
  • You may also be able to arrange an informational interview with a company. If so, ask if job shadowing is a follow-up option to learn more.
  • You should make the request to shadow several weeks in advance by sending a formal request as a letter or email to the company HR or individual that you’d like to shadow. Just like with a cover letter, be polite, simply state your interest, request to shadow and provide your own contact information.
  • If you don’t get a reply after a week or two, follow up politely.

Rules and Etiquette

The most important thing to remember about your job shadow is to treat it as if it’s a regular day at work. Dress appropriately (and don’t be afraid to ask what that means ahead of time), be on time, be attentive and courteous when meeting people. You’ll want to treat this as a networking opportunity, too, so ask for business cards and share your own if you have them.
You’ll want to show your appreciation to the person you’re shadowing, too, so offer to take them to lunch, thank them again for the opportunity when you leave at the end of the day, and send a follow-up letter or email to them and to anybody else in the department or human resources who helped to make the job shadow possible.