Job Shadowing can be a one-time or repeat opportunity to observe functional roles within organizations of interest to help you add to your career exploration and success in interviewing. Job Shadowing is not a posted opportunity that you will find on a job board, but rather an activity initiated by you as a way to gain exposure to various work environments and learn more about the day to day operations within an industry of interest. Making an inquiry to job shadow a functional role within an organization can be a natural next step to an informational interview.

Also check out the Informational Interview section.

Job Shadowing Opportunities

How will this help me?

By initiating your own job shadowing opportunity, you gain valuable job search, resume writing, networking, and interviewing experience. Job shadowing gives you the opportunity to:

  • Experience a typical week on the job.
  • Investigate a career field of your choice.
  • Clarify your career goals and interests.
  • "Test drive" a career without the risk of longer-term commitment.
  • Get your foot in the door for competitive internships or jobs.
  • Add value to your resume.

A job shadowing experience can help you decide what you want to do, and just as importantly, what you do NOT want to do.

Will I get paid?

No, job shadowing is a learning opportunity.

What will I do when I shadow?

Shadowing experiences vary. You may spend the entire experience in one department or rotate time among different departments to get a broad overview. Some examples of what you might do include:

  • Observe, network, and work with professionals.
  • Take a company tour.
  • Conduct informational interviews.
  • Join a staff meeting.
  • Review company literature.
  • Help with clerical tasks.
  • Assist with actual office projects (research, report writing, etc.)

Can I receive Academic Credit?

Probably not as job shadowing is short-term.  See  Academic Credit for more information and requirements. 

How do I ask to shadow?

This step is VITAL to getting your foot in the door, so we encourage you to use the telephone when contacting an organization for the first time. There will be no second chance to make a good first impression. When you call an employer, you need to be professional; self-assured; to the point; enthusiastic; and convincing!

Know what you are going to say before you pick up the phone. Review specific information about the company from your research. You may also want to conduct a mock phone call and/or interview with a member of the Career Center advising team, friend, or family member.

30-Second Personal Introduction

You call a potential job shadowing site for the first time and to your surprise you connect with them directly! They have only a few minutes to talk with you before they have to prepare for a meeting. How can you make a positive and lasting impression in the brief time allotted?

Before you place your first contact call make sure to have your personal introduction prepared and rehearsed. Introduce yourself by talking about your strongest skills or leadership experiences. Mention your major if you feel it is clearly related to your career goals. Also, indicate why you want to shadow a professional in that industry and in that company more specifically. 

Cold call contact tips

Here are some suggestions for your first telephone encounter with the receptionist/internship coordinator/human resources office at a place where you would like to shadow and don’t have any existing contacts.

  • Tell them you are interested in gaining exposure to a variety of fields because you feel it’s the best way to find out what the jobs are actually like.
  • Ask if they could refer you to someone you may be able to shadow or someone within the organization who might be able to help you arrange a shadowing opportunity in _______ department.
  • Politely ask for the person’s contact information.
  • Ask what they believe the best method of contact is and when it is most likely that you will reach him/her.
  • Kindly thank them for their assistance. Write a follow-up note or e-mail to express your appreciation. 

I decided that I could not work in a museum as a curator. It was very beneficial to have this experience because the reality of the job was much different from the vision I had in college. I found that I wanted to enjoy art, rather than protect it from visitors and acquire it by making deals.
UVA Student
 

By spending the week seeing what really goes on at an environmental consulting firm - working in the field, data collection, report preparation, problem-solving - I decided that I wanted to find a job in that field after graduation. I learned qualities of the industry that were really appealing to me: being outside, job variety, solving problems, making a difference for the environment. As a result, I pursued and found employment in the field after graduation. The externship helped me to learn the basics of the language used in the field so that I was more informed while looking for a job and more articulate in interviewing for the jobs that I found.
UVA Student