When it comes to exploring your career path, there is an abundance of resources that you can turn to for job outlook, average salary, or information on skills and responsibilities used and demonstrated in that job. Even with that information easily accessible, it can still be difficult to identify whether that career is right for you. Job shadowing can be beneficial during this time of exploration. Spending a “day in the life” of a professional in the field you are interested in is an awesome way to help clarify this for you. A job shadow takes things to the next level in experiencing a work environment, company culture, the day-to-day responsibilities, as well as the knowledge and skills used at work. This experience can help you in deciding a major, or committing to an industry or company to work for; it assists you in determining whether it is the right career path for you, and can give you the confidence you need to make a decision. This is a chance to witness the everyday routine of a job, and goes beyond the glitz and glamour that is seen from the outside.
A great time to shadow is during school breaks. Northeastern offers a job shadowing program with local Boston companies called Husky Treks, more information is on our website for how to get involved. Some companies even have formal job shadow programs that you can get involved with. You can even connect with professionals through your friends and family, Northeastern alumni, professors, classmates and LinkedIn.
Before shadowing a professional, look them up on LinkedIn and visit the company website first. When you know this information, you will be able to ask specific questions about their role and the company that you can’t learn from the internet. Some things to take note of during your visit: are people dressed casually, or professionally? How do people interact with each other? Is there too much interaction? Not enough? Are there a lot of extra “perks” around the office? How long is the average workday? Is it a high-stress environment, fast paced, slow or relaxed? Bring a note pad around with you to write down what you observe so you can reflect on it after your day is over. Think about your shadowing experience and how it aligns with your own personality and interests.
Some things to keep in mind when you are shadowing: be polite, courteous and flexible with the person you are shadowing and work around their schedule. Dress like you would for a job interview. Also, be sure to follow up with a nice thank you note. You can even offer to buy the person some coffee, or lunch to show them your appreciation for being there.
While job shadowing is a great way to learn about possible career paths, it is also great networking and to begin to build relationships for your future. Additionally, experiencing the work environment first hand can help you in an interview, or to write a targeted cover letter for future internships or jobs.
Emily Norris is a Career Advisor at Northeastern Career Development. She loves working with students and guiding them to make informed career decisions that will lead to personal happiness. She enjoys hiking and a good workout, but also loves cooking and baking for friends and family to ensure a healthy balance! Tweet her @CareerCoachNU