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Job shadowing is a technique that provides insight into a job outside of what can be achieved from reading about it or completing research. The definition of job shadowing is on-the-job training and career development by shadowing a person doing the job that you're interested in, and where the interested person can ask questions and learn new skills.
People generally shadow someone before deciding on their future career, but it’s also done by people studying related courses. This is also a cost-effective way of getting the information you need, as it often doesn’t include any costs for travelling or paying for a place in a training course.
If you know the career path you want to take but are unsure of the best route for your personality or skillset, job shadowing is for you. We’ve put together 10 huge advantages so you can check if it’s the right option for you.
Here are some of the reasons you should consider job shadowing:
- You test out possible careers
- You learn about an organisation’s culture
- You learn from colleagues’ experiences
- You build professional connections
- You learn practical skills
- You get a glimpse into a job’s perks and challenges
- You gain work experience and build up your CV
- You’ll have a safe place to ask questions
- You discover the areas you can improve in
- You explore other career interests with your employer
1. You test out possible careers
Job shadowing at work allows you to try out different jobs without committing to something that doesn't suit you. It’s also easier to change careers at a young age.
It’s a great idea to shadow someone in a role you aspire towards, as it will give you a better understanding of the qualities and skills required to do well within that position. You'll be able to ask them various questions and get a first-hand look at the role.
Opportunities to learn about different career paths are limited, but by spending time with someone who already works within that industry, you can find out more about what their job entails.
2. You learn about an organisation's culture
Finding out more about the company you are interested in will help you determine whether it will be a good fit for you. By spending time with one of their employees, you will get an insight into the company's culture and work environment. This is an excellent opportunity to learn:
- What kind of workplace is it?
- Do they practice flexibility?
- How do they resolve conflicts or mistakes?
Job shadowing can help you determine whether this employer is the right fit for your personality, work style and beliefs. It provides an opportunity to see the environment you could be working in and the people in an organisation, too.
3. You learn from colleagues' experiences
Establishing a job shadowing programme gives you the opportunity to learn about different aspects of working in an organisation. You can ask questions and get valuable feedback from someone who currently works there. Ask them what they like and dislike about their career choice; it is also a great chance to learn about their job challenges and successes.
In a way, job shadowing has similar benefits to work experience, which is more aimed at people who are in school or have recently graduated. The knowledge of current employees is passed on, as well as the opportunity to create lasting connections.
4. You build professional connections
As a young individual, it’s often difficult to gain professional connections, which could limit your opportunities in the future. By taking part in job shadowing, you can create relationships with people who may help further your career in the future. You'll meet valuable contacts and build up your network.
These contacts can be significant to your career as they will provide valuable advice and support when you need it. It allows you to discuss any ideas or doubts you have about your future career path.
5. You learn practical skills
Depending on the job, shadowing can give you practical skills that can be useful in the long run. Whether it's how to use specific technology or equipment, or to understand an industry standard, this experience will benefit you in many ways.
You might discover that you don't like the job, which will save you stress and time in the future. Job shadowing allows prospective employees to feel what an industry is like. The practice might also provide you with new skills added to your CV or put on your LinkedIn profile.
6. You get a glimpse into a job's perks and challenges
By shadowing someone, you will learn more about your chosen career path. You'll learn about the day-to-day tasks involved in their jobs, possible long hours, as well as the potential rewards.
Although not every job will be the right fit for an individual, it is a great way to get a feel for whether working in that industry is something you want from your career.
7. You gain work experience and build up your CV
Taking part in a shadowing experience allows you to practice and enhance the skills necessary for your job, especially if they're related to the job you’re shadowing.
Use the opportunity to learn about how professionals deal with difficult situations, the procedures involved in resolving problems, and how to manage their time. You can also see if you are interested in an employer's specific industry and have chance to develop your skills. Also, it can allow you to build up your CV and add on valuable experience.
8. You'll have a safe place to ask questions
When you consider spending time with someone who already works in an industry, there is always the fear that your questions might be annoying or stupid.
Job shadowing benefits you by offering a “safe” way to gain information about an industry by having someone experienced answer any questions you have. This allows you to fully understand what the job involves and whether it is the right choice.
9. You discover the areas you can improve in
If you work shadow someone, you will understand what they have done in their career that has led them to success. You can learn and create a list of goals to improve your performance at the end of the experience.
Through this, you may find out that you do not possess the specific skills or knowledge that prospective employers require. You can then focus on developing these skills after the opportunity has finished, saving you time and possibly money in education or training sessions.
10. You explore other career interests with your employer
Another benefit to job shadowing is that it will allow you to expand your interests outside of your current job. It will give you the chance to explore your options and find out what else might be a good fit for you in terms of industry, role, and company culture.
This is beneficial because it will increase your job-hunting skills: You'll learn how to research companies and use LinkedIn/social media to find roles that fit your interests. This can also help when applying for a promotion, because you'll know what skills are needed and have information on how to improve your skills from your shadowing experience.
When you're looking for jobs, it can sometimes be hard to know what the day-to-day activities of a role entail. If this interests you, you need more information before applying.
Job shadowing benefits you by providing everything you need to know about a job, whether it’s the job’s tasks, company culture, or even what you need to do/know to be accepted into that career role.
You will be able to explore other roles within your mentor's company, which means you'll be more likely to find what you are looking for. Work shadowing might even lead to an offer of employment!
Join the discussion! Have you ever considered job shadowing? What did you gain from the experience? Let us know in the comments!
This is an updated version of an article originally published on 13 September 2015.