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Shadow a Professional
Shadowing a professional is a beneficial opportunity that allows you to gain a real day in the life view of a professionals tasks and work environment. This then allows you to make a well-informed decision on whether or not a particular career or work environment is right for you. Skillfully used, shadowing a professional is one the most valuable sources of occupational and career field information. More often than not, people are open to being shadowed for a day or a few hours; as long as their employer approves. Typically professionals, especially alumni, are excited to share their work experience with students and fellow alumni.
The first step in shadowing a professional is finding a professional with whom you'd like to shadow and contacting them in a professional manner.
Where to find professionals to shadow
- Faculty and Staff
- Relatives (or friends of relatives)
- Friends (or relatives of friends)
- Consider finding a professional mentorship opportunity
During your shadowing experience
While each shadowing experience will be different, we recommend presenting yourself as professionally as possible. Be mindful to match the required attire of those who already work for the company. Have your questions prepared ahead of time and take a pen and paper to record insightful answers. Your questions shouldn't be able to be answered by printed material or information on a company website but should be able to aid you in making a better decision as to whether or not to pursue a particular occupation or career field. Keep in mind that the person you are shadowing will be working and may not desire to answer questions on the fly but may carve out specific times during your visit for questions.
Though you may be shadowing one person specifically, be open to meeting as many people as possible during your experience. If you are interested in meeting people within certain job functions, this is something you will want to arrange prior to the day of your shadowing experience.
As your objective is to gain as much information as possible while shadowing, we suggest you observe everything. This might include making note of the technology the professional is utilizing, communication channels being utilized, skills being utilized while completing tasks, employees interactions with each other, and the overall feel of the office or department.
After your shadowing experience
Whatever your thoughts about the occupation or career field after your shadowing experience, be sure to send a thank you letter to the professional you shadowed.
- Send immediately following the shadowing experience (within 24 hours)
- Drop in the mail within two days
If you were able to build good rapport with the person you shadowed, consider connecting with them via LinkedIn. It could be beneficial to connect with said person again professionally in your future.