When you're trying to decide on a career, arranging a job shadow is one way to get some hands-on experience. In some cases, you may find that the job you thought you'd love is too boring, taxing, stressful or otherwise unfit for your lifestyle; in the best scenario, you'll love it and be ready to start that type of work right away. When you're working to request a job shadow, be sure to follow some basic rules of business etiquette.
Talk to the academic advisor or career counseling office at your university or school to ask whether they have opportunities for job shadowing. Some schools pair alumni with current students and will provide you their contact information or make initial contact with them for you; others will provide you the contact information of prominent local companies in your field and expect you to make contact yourself. If you get no guidance at all, it's going to be up to you to identify the businesses that do the type of work you want to do, and to find the contact information for the company's human resources office or company officers. Talk to your family and friends, search the Internet or use your school's alumni directory to find possible job shadow opportunities.
Email the prospective job shadow and introduce yourself as a student at the school where you study, and mention your major or course of study. Let the person know you're interested in doing a job shadow with them for a period of a few days or a week. In this initial email, ask the person to call you at a convenient time for them, or inquire about a convenient time to call them. Let the person know the times you are available to talk, and then let the person know you are looking forward to hearing from them. Stay cordial and professional when you get a response email and need to write back.
Call the person at the arranged time, or be available during the time the person is slated to call you. Find a quiet place to talk so that you'll be able to give the person your full attention. Have your schedule on hand so that you'll know when you are available for the job shadow.
Thank the person for agreeing to speak with you, and then ask about a convenient time to do the job shadow. When the person tells you their availability, compare that time to your own schedule. If you're planning to do the job shadow during an academic term, you may be limited to only afternoon or morning hours due to your class schedule; let the person know that so they'll be understanding about your limited schedule. It may be appropriate to set up the job shadow during winter, spring or summer break when you'll be able to commit to a few full days. In any case, agree on a few mutually-available days.
Ask about any special details you need to know, such as the dress code, instructions for getting to the office and into the building, and any background information you need to research before coming to the office. Write down the details so you won't forget.
Thank the person for the opportunity, and then let them know you're looking forward to meeting them. Directly after your conversation, write the dates and times into your schedule so that you won't forget.
- The person conducting the job shadow is likely going to have to adjust her schedule and expect to be less productive on the days you're with her, so show her the respect she deserves by arriving on time, not canceling unless there's a serious emergency, and wearing the appropriate attire. Likewise, be respectful and use your eyes and ears during the job shadow, asking questions only when the person is not engaged in important tasks.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.