For many, job shadowing may conjure up thoughts of high school or college students walking through an office trying to learn what a job is really like. While job shadowing most certainly can be used to help students discover what they want to do with their lives or what the working world is truly like, that is only the tip of the iceberg.
Job shadowing is a fantastic method of building ones professional network early and often, far better than some of the more commonly used networking practices of today. Through job shadowing, an individual (whether that be a student or someone changing careers) gets to meet their potential co-workers in person, letting both the company and the shadower get a good feel for whether this person fits their culture or not. Trying to find a job exclusively through online pathways makes it very difficult for both parties involved to get a good feel for whether there is a good fit. Think about it, would you rather hire the person with good paper credentials that did marginally better than others in the hour-long interview process or someone with similar credentials where you got to see how they interacted with the people they would be sitting next to for years. Job shadowing lets an employer better understand who a person is behind their paper credentials and lets the individual see what a company and its careers are really like.
Where Internships Fall short
The most common method of networking for young professionals and students is through an internship. An internship certainly helps an individual get to know a specific company and the people that work there, and it certainly helps a company test the waters with potential future employees while they are still early in the job market, however there are some draw backs to relying solely on internships to land a dream job or employee.
If a student is lucky they may get one or two internships over the course of their undergraduate career. One or two companies is a drop in the ocean of opportunity the job market has to offer, while the experience may look good on a resume the networking aspect of traditional internship programs are limited. One estimate from comparecamp.com stated that 56% of interns accepted a job offer to work at the company they interned at. While that is not a bad stat necessarily, it can be viewed from many different angles. For instance, 56% of individuals chose to work at one of the only companies they had ever been exposed to. That's a large number of people that chose their first option, largely because thats where the majority of their professional network is and where they are familiar with the job. Of course some of that 56% are people that found their dream job right away and got lucky but that certainly is not everyone, and certainly not a majority. Many people simply had no idea what options were available to them because they were confined limited job exposure and networking.
Job shadowing on the other hand blends the aspect of in person networking with a lower time and money commitment for both the company and the individual. Through job shadowing a student can go to see multiple companies over the course of their summer or during a semester. The same goes for the companies hosting students, they can expose their culture and amenities to more individuals for a fraction of the time and money spent on traditional internship programs. Where a mid-sized company could expose themselves to two or three interns over the summer they can now expose themselves to fifty or more year-round.
From the company perspective these interns are often around for three months, which is just enough time to train an individual only to have them leave. In an economy that Companies commit roughly $10,000-$15,000 of their budget to hiring and training just a single intern. That is an expensive price to pay for very limited job exposure. Through job shadowing, a company can expose themselves to fifty or more times more people for the price of hiring a single intern.
Networking through Job Shadowing
The expanded professional network through job shadowing can have huge benefits down the road. For instance say you own a small accounting firm and you have someone shadow you but they didn't end up getting excited about accounting. You had a good day with the individual, exchanged life stories, and learned a lot about each other. Two months later he ends up working at a digital marketing company. Well a year down the road you want to expand but have no marketing experience; who better to do businesses with than the person you had a real connection with?
That expanded professional network can also help a new hire bring ideas to the table. By looking into the business structure and methodologies of numerous companies through job shadowing a new hire can have a more well rounded knowledge for how to tackle new problems for a company. Not to mention the increased number of people to reach out to for help. Job shadowing doesn't just help you land a job but helps you do your job better. Through job shadowing the working world can no longer be this unknown abyss to a student, and can in turn be an exciting step that is greatly anticipated.
Where to find a job shadowing experience?
Job shadowing is becoming more common with time but it can still be difficult to find a job shadowing opportunity. Often educational institutions will have some form of support or network of alumni to help connect a student with a job shadowing opportunity, but the most common method for finding an opportunity is a mix of utilizing your pre-existing network with cold email and Linkedin outreach. Enspirejobshadowing.com is a network of job shadowing opportunities that lets students see which companies in their area are open to receiving job shadow requests. Enspire also lets individuals job shadow in an event style where many people come all on one day to see what a company and its careers are truly like. It is the easiest way to find a job shadowing opportunity if your network is small or you don't want to blindly reach out to strangers.