How To Start Job Shadowing While in High School

Explore Your Career Options by
Job Shadowing

Dive into the professional world with job shadowing, a live canvas to sketch your potential career with the colors of real-world experiences and daily life in various professions. This interactive approach to career exploration provides you with a front-row seat to the realities of different job roles, enabling you to connect your studies to concrete professional environments.

What Is Job Shadowing?

Imagine a day as your future self: Job shadowing combines observation with engagement, offering you a multidimensional view of the careers you're interested in. It's your chance to follow a professional through their day, ask questions, and participate where possible, giving you a richer, fuller perspective of your possible career trajectory. 

What Will I Do While I’m Job Shadowing?

Each job shadowing experience is different depending on the type of job and the field you’re shadowing. Depending on the industry, you might get to dive into hands-on tasks or witness the day-to-day hustle. 

Typically, job shadowing lasts the entire workday, providing you with an understanding of the ins and outs of their daily routine. Remember to ask questions, take notes, and be prepared – if you're shadowing in healthcare, comfy sneakers might be your best bet! 

Examples of Job Shadowing Opportunities

The type of job shadowing experience you choose depends on your passions and interests. Research different career paths, and don’t hesitate to ask a professional in the field you’re interested in if you can shadow them. Many workplaces allow job shadowing, so don’t be afraid to ask. 

Some examples of job shadowing experiences that might be available include:  

Healthcare - Spend the day alongside dedicated healthcare professionals, witnessing their commitment to patient care.  
Tech Industry - Observe how coding turns into innovative applications, and gain insights into the collaborative, ever-changing environment of the tech industry. 
Advertising and Marketing - Get a firsthand look at how ideas are born, developed, and brought to life in advertising and marketing campaigns.  

Benefits of Job Shadowing in High School

Job shadowing is a great way to get a general understanding of what the professional world will be like after you graduate. It can be a defining moment in deciding if a career is the right fit for you.

Some of the key advantages of job shadowing include:

1. Learning More About Careers You're Interested in.

Learning about a profession through job shadowing offers more than just reading textbooks or researching online. It gives you a real, firsthand look to see if a career matches your passions and interests. If you enjoy it, that's great! You can confidently pursue that path in college and your future career. If it's not the right fit, no worries. Job shadowing helps you avoid investing time and money in the wrong direction. 

Don't limit yourself to just one job shadowing experience. Exploring various fields might uncover hidden passions and interests you never knew you had. 

2. Building Your Professional Network.

Having a solid professional network can open the door to many opportunities throughout your entire career. Job shadowing allows you to start to build your network and connect with professionals in your desired field. These lasting relationships can open the door to many opportunities including mentorships, internships, and future job opportunities. 

3. Getting Introduced to the Workforce.

Job shadowing allows you to observe a true workplace environment including culture, dynamics of employees, and job expectations. For students who may have limited work experience or haven't yet been exposed to professional settings, job shadowing serves as a powerful tool for exploration and learning. Job shadowing not only provides greater understanding of different professions, but it will also make it easier to adapt to workplace settings in the future.

Create a Career Cluster

A career cluster is a grouping of careers that share common features and require similar skills. Creating a career cluster can provide a framework for organizing and understanding the wide variety of job opportunities available, making it easier for you to explore your desired and related fields. Check out the video on how to create a career cluster to aide you in your career search. 

Potential Challenges of Job Shadowing

While job shadowing is a valuable opportunity for high school students, there can be some potential  limitations. Some of these challenges include:  

  • Limited Exposure: Fully grasping the complexities of a career in just one day is nearly impossible. Additionally, solely observing without actively participating in regular tasks may only provide a partial understanding of what it’s like to work in a particular career.  
  • Workplace Challenges: It’s important to remember that every workplace has its flaws and unique challenges. While we hope every job shadowing experience is a positive one, the reality is that negative experiences may occur. If this happens, don’t hesitate to explore other opportunities. It’s important to remember that not every person or workplace is perfect, so a single negative experience should not dissuade you from pursuing your desired career path. 

How To Find a Job Shadow Opportunity

Start by deciding what type of career you are interested in. Consider your passions and skills, and explore jobs that apply to them. Some ways to start finding job shadowing opportunities include: 

1. Ask Friends and Family

Where have your friends job shadowed? Do friends’ parents, your relatives or their colleagues work anywhere you want to learn more about?

2. Utilize Social Media and Job Boards

Your social network likely stretches far beyond the number of people at your dinner table, so simply asking people to send recommendations for local businesses where you can job shadow could return several possibilities you hadn’t considered. Platforms like LinkedIn are gold mines for finding professionals willing to offer job shadowing. Connect with individuals in your desired field, express your interest, and politely ask them about what shadowing opportunities are available.

3. Talk to Your High School Counselor 

Your high school counselor can offer ideas based on what other students have done. If there is a field that interests you, see if your counselor can give you contact information for someone who works in that profession.   

4. Contact a Business Directly

At smaller businesses, you might be able to find an email address or phone number that you can use to connect with the person you want to shadow. If you’re trying to get experience at a larger company, you may want to start by reaching out to the human resources department and seeing if they can help you get something scheduled with the right person.  

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