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Shadowing: Everything You Need to Know
Being confident about what career you want can be a complicated and challenging decision. How do you know what you really want to do unless you’ve gotten to do it before? “Shadowing” offers students the opportunity to observe certain careers. So, let’s take a closer look at what shadowing is and how you can do it!
What is shadowing?
“Shadowing” is a term that you may have heard before, or even had recommended to you. But what exactly is shadowing? Shadowing is a common way to gain insight into various jobs and careers. While mostly students shadow professionals in prospective careers, anyone can shadow! Students interested in the medical field commonly shadow doctors during high school and college. However, the medical field is only one of many areas that you can gain experience with before fully diving in.
How do you find someone to shadow?
The first place to start with shadowing is knowing who you are going to shadow. As a high school student, you probably don’t have a whole lot of connections with professionals in prospective careers. However, your parents, teachers, or guidance counselors are all places to start. If you have a job, your current employer might be able to help as well. If you are in college, there may be a greater chance that you already have some names of people that you can shadow. If not, then again, the same list of people may be able to help you.
Also see: 10 tips for finding your ideal job
How do you shadow someone?
The idea of shadowing might sound great, but how do you actually shadow someone? You can ask to shadow people in a variety of ways. With technology, it is probably easiest to ask about shadowing via email, however, sometimes a phone call works as well. Below are a few things that you can include in an email or letter. Before reaching out, you may find it helpful to write the answers to the questions and points below.
Why do you want to shadow?
It’s important to share why you want to shadow. You can include a bit of information here about why you’re interested in this field and why you would like to shadow this person specifically.
Who you are and what your credentials are
Credentials may sound like an intimidating term, but credentials can be as simple as the classes you are currently taking or the interest you have in a career field. If this isn’t your first time shadowing, then including that you have previously shadowed may also be relevant to mention here. And of course, always make sure to clearly say who you are, your age, if you’re a student and where, and other pertinent information like that.
Because you are asking someone to invite you into their office or place of work, you will probably have to be very flexible with your schedule. However, including some availability from the start is a good way to show the thought and planning you are putting into this opportunity.
Unfortunately, just because you ask to shadow someone, doesn’t mean that they will say yes. If that happens, that’s okay. There are plenty of other professionals to reach out to. When you close your email, phone call, or however you choose to contact them, thank them for their time and if you feel comfortable, ask if they might know anyone else who you could contact.
What kinds of places can you shadow at?
If you can think of a job, there’s a good chance you can shadow there! The great thing about shadowing is that there are no specific rules regulating where and who you can shadow.
Hospitals and clinics are common places where students shadow doctors, nurses, and other staff. Law offices, schools, engineering firms, and vet clinics are just a few other examples of jobs that typically allow students to come and shadow.
Also see: All about apprenticeships
What do you do when you shadow someone?
When you shadow someone, you will spend your day following them around and observing how they spend their time. Shadowing a doctor is usually a fairly easy thing to do since students can’t be very involved in any type of care, however, other shadowing experiences may offer you more hands-on experience. Shadowing at a radio station, law office, or school might let you take part and interact with individuals.
Also see: How to land an internship guide
You don’t have to be locked in on a career in order to shadow someone. If you are even mildly interested in a career, it may be worth looking into more. Observing what a career looks like may be the push you need to become more interested in it. Alternatively, it may be just what makes you look for another career option.
Another note on shadowing is how often you shadow and for how long. As a student, there’s no limit on how many places you can try to shadow. Really, it all depends on how motivated you are and how many people you reach out to. There is no rule that says you can only shadow someone for a day. In order to really understand certain jobs, it may require a longer period of shadowing.
Related: How to find a job after college