Job Shadowing Tips for Teens and Students

Angela Copeland
by Angela Copeland   Career Advice Expert 

No matter how old you are, deciding what you want to do when you grow up is hard. Instead of imagining, make an appointment to shadow a professional at their job. Getting a bird’s eye view into a company can help you to see if this is a job you might like, or if it’s something you would never want to do.

What is job shadowing? When you job shadow, you visit a workplace. You spend part of a day, or maybe an entire day, observing someone else do their job. This sounds pretty fun, right? It is!

Don’t delay this valuable experience. Workers are much more likely to welcome students to shadow them than down-on-their-luck adults.

Job shadowing gives you a small but critical window into the day-to-day operations of your ideal career. You may also gain a networking contact you can add to your network to seek further advice, career tips, as well as internship information and job information.

Many high schools and colleges help their students get placed in a job shadow. You may want to check with your career resources department or with your school counselor to see if this is a service they offer. But, you can also be proactive and set up your own job-shadowing experiences.

How can you make certain your job-shadowing experiences are best — for both you and the professional you are shadowing? Follow these job shadowing tips.

Job Shadowing Tips: The Basics

First, confirm time and location of the location. Map out the location the night before to plan your route to the workplace.

After that, research the organization where you will job shadow and your host. Check out the company’s website and search recent news about the organization. Find your host’s LinkedIn profile and learn more about them.

Now it’s time for the final touches. You must dress appropriately. Dress as though you are going to a job interview. Conduct some research about your industry to determine your ideal attire. Practice proper hygiene. Spray less perfume or cologne than you usually wear.

Job Shadowing Tips: Making the most of your day

Bring a notepad or tablet to take notes throughout the day. Do not bring many other things. You should be able to move around easily.

Develop a list of questions to ask your job shadowing host. You could even send a list of the questions ahead of time so that your host can give them some thought.

Consider your own career aspirations and be prepared to answer questions about your interests and goals. The host may ask you to “tell me about yourself.” They may ask you what you want to do when you finish school. Write your answer down in advance to be sure you’ve thought through it. You don’t need to memorize it, but you should spend some time thinking about your answer.

Job Shadowing Tips: Start the day off right

Do your best to make a good first impression. As you introduce yourself, shake hands, smile, and make good eye contact with everyone that you meet. Pro tip: repeat each person’s name after you shake hands. This will help you remember names.

Find common ground and attempt to establish a good rapport with your host. Act professionally throughout the job shadowing experience, which means showing your enthusiasm and appreciation. Listen and learn as much as possible during the shadowing.

Find common ground and attempt to establish a good rapport with your host. Act professionally throughout the job shadowing experience, which means showing your enthusiasm and appreciation. Listen and learn as much as possible during the shadowing.

Participate and attend as many activities, meetings, and events during the shadow experience as you can. If someone asks you if you want to try something, say yes!

Gather business cards from the people you meet so that you can add them to your network. Remember to thank them for taking time from their work to meet with you.

Thank each person you spend time with during the shadow, and follow up with a handwritten thank you note after you’ve completed the shadow experience.

Job Shadowing Tips: Be flexible

During the workday, anything can happen. Things could happen that might end the shadowing sooner than expected. If something like this happens, react positively, and ask about possibly rescheduling for a better time.

No matter what happens, maintain a positive outlook and make the best of the shadowing experience. If you don’t like the shadowing experience, do not share that feedback. The person is doing you a favor. Smile and keep a positive attitude no matter what.

Turn off your cell phone and resist the urge to text or browse social media. Do not take pictures unless the company gives you permission.

Final Thoughts on Job Shadowing Tips

To have a successful and rewarding job shadowing experience, maintain a good attitude and sense of humor. Respect the workplace and the workers that you shadow. Express curiosity, but mind the boundaries. Remember to thank everyone for their time. Follow up with them via LinkedIn or email.

Finally, if your school does not offer a shadowing program, or does not have contacts in your career field, consider taking the initiative to create your own. Here are a few tips.

  • First, ask your family, friends, and neighbors if they know anyone working in the career field you want to shadow. Then, research organizations that employ people in the career field you want to shadow. Contact the people from your network and organizations to request a shadow experience. You can achieve this task by phone or email.
  • Once you have received confirmation of your job shadow request, contact the person you are shadowing and reconfirm the date and time of your shadow — as well as the exact address and location.

I hope these job shadowing tips have helped you! Just remember, the time when you are in school is the perfect time to learn more about the jobs that are out there. And, people will help you. You just have to ask!

Do you have a stellar cover letter and resume on file yet? Get started by checking out these helpful pages.

About the Author

Career Advice Expert

Angela Copeland Career Advice Expert

Angela Copeland is a career expert and founder of her own coaching firm, Copeland Coaching. Previously, Angela was Vice President of Digital and eCommerce at First Tennessee Bank, and Director of Digital Strategy and Marketing at ServiceMaster. She’s the author of the book Breaking The Rules & Getting The Job and the host of the Copeland Coaching Podcast. Angela is also a syndicated career columnist, and recently shared her career story in a TEDx Talk titled "How I broke the rules & found my perfect job." She holds an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University and a B. S. in Computer & Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


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