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What is job shadowing?

Updated: Aug 15, 2021


Job shadowing is a concept many of us may have heard of but do not fully understand. To put it simply, job shadowing is the when an individual interested in a certain career or company will follow a person in that career or company to see what their day to day life is truly like. Job shadowing is a fantastic way to explore career options and get connected with potential employers. Whether you are unsure of what career is right for you or you are looking for a change, job shadowing is a fantastic first step!


How long are job shadowing experiences?


Job shadowing experiences can be anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks depending on the company and career. Some careers can be very complex and dynamic and cannot be accurately portrayed in just a single day of observation, while others can be well demonstrated in less than a day. The length of a job shadowing experience does not necessarily determine how complex the job is however. Some job shadowing experiences can be relatively short because of the opportunity cost an employee or company takes on when they are hosting a job shadower. There are a number of factors that go into the length of a job shadowing experience and should all be taken into account when searching for one of your own.


The experience itself can vary dramatically as well. Some job shadowing experiences can be exclusively office jobs while others can be off site. Any job type can be shadowed as long as there are people interested in the job and there are people willing to give back by being shadowed, making every job shadow experience unique in its own way.


Job Shadowing vs Internships


Job shadowing is not to be mistaken with an internship however. While these two methods of hands on job experience share many aspects and benefits, they can be vastly different. A job shadowing experience typically would not involve any personal labor for the company, unless for demonstration purposes, and a job shadower will never be asked to do any activities that are financially beneficial for the company. The purpose of job shadowing for the shadower is solely to gain an understanding of the job or network, and the sole purpose for the host is to help the individual or expose their field or company to potential job candidates.


There are also numerous benefits an individual and company receive through job shadowing that they do not get to the same degree through internship programs. For instance with your typical internship structure a student may get exposure to one or two companies and careers within their undergraduate years. Not to mention they had to compete for those internships, forcing them to pursue an internship in their field of study even if they are not sure that path is right for them. Through job shadowing however an individual can get exposure to far more companies and careers because of the lower time and money commitment it is for the host company. Companies also get exposure to far more interested individuals because of the lack of competition and lower time commitment for individuals.


As more millennials enter the workforce job shadowing has been growing in popularity. Millennials are more likely to switch careers or not commit to a career they are not interested in than their preceding generations. Through job shadowing, more potential job candidates can get a better understanding of what a career is truly like before jumping into it, all while also building their professional network as well. Even in this digital age the need for job shadowing is growing rapidly.

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