What Is Job Shadowing? Here's Everything You Need To Know

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 14 November 2022 | Published 30 August 2021

Updated 14 November 2022

Published 30 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The opportunity to observe the daily duties and responsibilities of highly experienced professionals is an invaluable experience that allows you to learn competencies far beyond what you can expect to learn in a classroom. Job shadowing can help you make important career decisions and form meaningful professional and social relationships. Gaining more knowledge on the job shadowing process ensures that you're better prepared to participate in any shadowing opportunity that becomes available to you. In this article, we answer the question 'what is job shadowing?', discuss why it's beneficial, explore job shadowing industries and learn how to prepare for job shadowing opportunities.

Related: On-the-Job Training: Definition, Types and Examples

What is job shadowing?

If you are wondering what job shadowing is exactly, it's a career programme that allows an individual to observe professionals within their work environment so that they can learn practical knowledge and experience how to perform their daily work routines and tasks.

Job shadowing programmes last for varying amounts of time. Some only last a few hours, while others can continue on for days or weeks depending on the specific circumstances. Students and interns usually participate in job shadowing opportunities to take advantage of the skills and professional networks they can develop. It also helps them discover if a specific career path is the right choice.

Related: How to Job Shadow and Learn the Most from Your Experience

Why is job shadowing beneficial?

There are a variety of benefits you can gain from job shadowing highly skilled professionals. Review the following reasons why shadowing jobs is beneficial for you:

  • Help you network and form professional connections: Job shadowing helps you meet and form meaningful professional relationships. These network connections may eventually be able to help you advance in your career once you finish your academics and begin looking for work. You can also go to them for career advice as well.

  • Provide you with career clarity: Job shadowing can help bring clarity to your goals and future endeavours. While in the program, you get to experience a specific job first-hand and understand all the responsibilities of that role. That can help you make a more informed decision about your future.

  • Allow you to gain more insight into the operations of a company: Job shadowing provides you with insight into the operations and functions of a company. With your practical experience, you can decide whether this is a company you want to stay with or seek employment elsewhere.

  • Help you learn about transitional job positions and roles: Job shadowing places you in a position where you can learn about other adjacent career opportunities, some of which may interest you more than the current career path you're pursuing.

  • Help you identify where you can improve professionally: Job shadowing helps you determine what technical and soft skills you can improve for a specific job. Professionals generally need these skills to perform their daily tasks, and as such, you can begin looking for additional ways to improve on those important competencies.

Related: Career Goals: How To Set, Examples and Tips for Achieving

What are some industries where you can job shadow?

You can job shadow in nearly every industry and job sector. Many job shadowing opportunities are accessible through online platforms and searches, but you can also consult with a counsellor or close contact who may know about any available job shadowing programmes. The following are some of the industries that provide job shadowing experiences:

Healthcare

The healthcare industry has a wide variety of specialities. Because of this, healthcare facilities typically offer job shadowing opportunities to professionals looking to start or transition their careers. Usually, healthcare job shadowing opportunities require individuals to have or be in the process of earning a pre-medicine degree or a related science degree. Here are some examples of the jobs you can shadow in the healthcare industry:

  • Registered nurse

  • Physician

  • General practitioner

  • Nurse practitioner

  • Public health specialist

  • Patient services coordinator

Related: What Are Apprenticeships? (With Frequently Asked Questions)

Marketing

Marketing encompasses several unique specialities including market research, campaign management, content creation, event planning, graphic design and brand development. Job shadowing in the marketing industry helps professionals decide which areas of marketing intrigue them the most. Review these job titles to get ideas for the types of jobs you can shadow within marketing:

  • Social media specialist

  • Marketing campaign strategist

  • Marketing coordinator

  • Graphic designer

  • Brand manager

  • Marketing promotions specialist

Related: What Is an Internship? (With Benefits and Responsibilities)

Construction and engineering

Construction and engineering projects require a team of professionals to design, craft, inspect and build structures. Professionals in this industry work on residential and commercial building projects. They can also work on the construction of roadways, bridges, waterways and other types of infrastructure. Here are some examples of the different jobs you can shadow in the construction and engineering industry:

  • Civil engineer

  • Construction supervisor

  • Tradesperson (welder, carpenter, ironsmith)

  • Land surveyor

  • Contractor

  • Heavy machine operator

  • Health and safety inspector

Related: Internships vs. Apprenticeships: The Main Differences

Finance and accounting

There is a wide range of jobs within the finance and accounting industry for you to consider. In these positions, you can expect to perform various duties like taxation, auditing, accounting, investing, forecasting, researching, planning and consulting. In this field, you are likely to work within an office space and develop the computer competency skills that are necessary for most of these careers. Here are just a few examples of the types of jobs you can shadow in the finance and accounting industry:

  • Underwriter

  • Auditor

  • Tax accountant

  • Management accountant

  • Government accountant

  • Financial advisor

  • Accounts payable and receivable specialist

  • Investment consultant

Related: What Does a Mentor Do? (Plus Benefits of Mentorship)

Education

The education sector is essential to any functioning society and education professionals are incredibly valuable for teaching at all life stages, from childhood to adulthood. However, educators don't just work within the classroom. They can perform administrative duties and other responsibilities outside of school. Teachers have many specialisations, like maths or science. Job shadowing in this field ensures you learn organisational skills and how to collaborate with other people.

These are some examples of roles you could shadow in education:

  • Preschool teacher

  • Primary school teacher

  • Secondary school teacher

  • Post-secondary education teacher

  • School counsellor

  • Admissions assistant

  • Private tutor

Related: What Is Early Childhood Education? (Roles, Skills and Salary)

How to prepare for a job shadowing opportunity in 6 steps

Here are six simple steps to help you prepare for your job shadowing experience:

1. Clearly define when you're available

As you prepare for your job shadowing experience, ensure that you consult with a professional to help you define the times and dates that the employer expects you to job shadow. Make sure that they understand your schedule with the utmost clarity, as this helps to avoid misunderstandings or miscommunications between yourself and your professional contact.

Demonstrate that their time is valuable to you and that you take the opportunity seriously. Make certain that your current commitments won't interfere with the job shadowing timeline and give a straightforward answer about whether the timeframe works or if you can make schedule adjustments.

Related: What Is an Onboarding Process for New Employees?

2. Conduct thorough research about the company and job you've chosen

Before you start your job shadowing experience, take the time to research the company you plan to do job shadowing at. This includes reviewing their mission statement and values on the company website and looking at the types of products or services they offer. By doing company research, you can engage in meaningful conversations with employees. Besides company research, it's also helpful that you review the typical job duties and education requirements for the job title you plan to shadow. By doing this, you can develop a better understanding of the job title and come up with questions to ask.

3. Craft a list of meaningful questions you can ask

Although you have a lot of time to observe when you shadow for a job, there are also moments when you have the chance to speak with a professional about specific job duties, skills and other topics related to the job. For this reason, it's important that you take the time to think about the questions you want to ask. Keep them in a notebook so you can reference them with ease during your job shadowing.

4. Consult with them about dress codes, start times and other pertinent information

While job shadowing is usually an opportunity that you had to volunteer for, it's still necessary that your company and colleagues perceive you positively. This is important because the company at which you job shadow could eventually become a lucrative network contact or future employer. It's very important that their first impression of you is that you're someone who is thoughtful, professional and driven. Asking questions about the company's rules demonstrates a well-mannered image.

5. Clearly define your purpose for job shadowing

While you are job shadowing, expect some of your colleagues to question you about your career goals, aspirations and endeavours. They might also want to know why you decide to shadow at their company. Taking the time to clearly define to yourself why you are there and why you want to pursue this specific job or join this company can help you passionately answer their questions and display professionalism. It can also help you become more resolute in your aspirations and career choices.

Related: How To Make a Successful Career Switch

6. Send them a preliminary email before your starting date

Sending an email one business day before your set a starting date for the job shadow experience helps you convey your enthusiasm and gratitude for the experience. This may also help you confirm any additional questions you may have. It's also helpful as it reminds the person you're shadowing the agreed date and time.

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