Job Shadowing is an opportunity for you to connect with or “shadow” a business professional (job shadowing mentor) who has specific knowledge about an occupation or career field in which you are interested. You will observe the mentor’s responsibilities and tasks, and learn about the knowledge, skills, talents, and level of education required for the job.

While the purpose of job shadowing is to gather career-related information and expand your networking contacts, it also allows you to build interviewing skills, become aware of trends in the field, and see workforce technologies in action. Job shadowing can be an eye-opening, exciting experience that can greatly assist you in choosing your future career path.

Getting Started

First, build a contact list. Determine who has the information you are seeking. Identify those people who share a common interest, enthusiasm, or involvement in some activity that appeals to you. Identify people who work in a career setting, career area, or specific job that interests you.

Create Your List

  • Ask our team about Tri-State area employers or alumni who have volunteered to be contacted by students to discuss job and career-related information.
  • Visit the Resource Center in the Career and Professional Development Office and get information on potential employers of interest or look up employers in Handshake.
  • Contact the area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development agencies.
  • Research potential contacts on the Internet.

Establish Contact

There are three ways to establish contact to arrange a potential job shadowing experience. You may want to use all three:

  • Referral: Ask people you know for referrals to professionals who may be interested in providing a job shadowing experience.
  • Telephone: Contact area business professionals and explain that you are a student conducting career research and wish to gather information to assist in making career decisions.
  • Letter: Clearly state your purpose and desire to schedule a job shadowing experience. Indicate that you will follow up by a telephone call in hopes of scheduling a specific date and time.

Helpful Tips

  • Know what you want to accomplish. The primary objective of job shadowing is to investigate a specific career field so you can make a more informed career decision.
  • Identify your potential contacts and do outreach to find a job shadowing mentor.
  • Arrange for the job shadowing experience. You will want to discuss details with your job shadowing mentor. Your experience could be arranged for a half hour, a day, or a week.
  • Prepare for your job shadowing experience. Plan what you want to discuss with your job shadowing mentor. Come prepared with specific questions (see below or check out the resources on informational interviewing). Start with questions related to the job or specific career field.
  • Dress professionally for the experience. You do not need to wear “interview apparel;” however, you should dress appropriately in at least business casual attire.
  • Ask your mentor if they can think of other individuals who might be helpful to contact for additional job shadowing experiences or career-related information.
  • Follow up. Write your mentor a thank you letter as soon as possible. Mention some items that you found particularly interesting or helpful.

Student Responsibilities

To make the most of the experience, and to show that you respect your mentor’s time, you should prepare in advance the questions that will be asked during the meeting. You should also arrive at the agreed upon time, dressed appropriately. Remember to follow up the interview with a thank you letter or email.

Questions About the Career Field
Prepare questions for your mentor about what it is like to work in this particular career field. Here are some suggested questions:

  1. What are the main responsibilities associated with work in your field?
  2. Please describe a typical day, week, month in your job.
  3. What interests and skills are needed for successful employment in this field?
  4. What are the advantages of working in this field? Disadvantages?
  5. What salary and benefits can I expect?
  6. What education and experiences will I need to break into the field?
  7. What type of work schedule does this field require?
  8. Have standards or licensing requirements been established for this field by national professional organizations?
  9. Are jobs in this field limited to any particular geographic areas?
  10. How do people find out about openings in your occupation?
  11. What opportunities exist for advancement or lateral movement within the field?
  12. What are the emerging jobs in this field?
  13. What is the current outlook for new college graduates in this field?
  14. Are you satisfied with the career field you have chosen?
  15. What do you see happening to your profession in the next five to ten years?

Questions About a Specific Organization
Here are some suggested questions related to working at the mentor’s company or organization.

  1. Please tell me more about your organization and its purpose.
  2. Is your organization growing, diminishing, or maintaining its size?
  3. How does your organization compete or cooperate with other organizations within this field?
  4. How do you think your job would be different if you were working in a larger or smaller organization?
  5. How is your organization funded?
  6. What is unique about your organization?
  7. In the future, do you think your organization will be needing more employees in this field?
  8. What is your job security within this organization?

Questions About Mentor’s Background and Experience
Consider these questions related to your mentor’s personal background, work experiences, and professional insights.

  1. What field did you prepare for and expect to enter originally?
  2. How did you get where you are in your field?
  3. If you needed to leave your present job, to what other jobs could you apply your skills?
  4. Would you advise someone to enter your career field?
  5. What would you have done differently in your career?
  6. What do you like most about your job?
  7. What would you identify as the top two personal rewards from the work you do?