If you’re a high school student or recent high school graduate and you’re looking ahead to your future – great! Perhaps you might want to be a doctor, a teacher, an accountant, or some other type of trade. How do you know for sure that you’ll really like that profession? At 16-18 years of age, how can you narrow down career options? One way is by job shadowing.

What is job shadowing?

Job shadowing is the opportunity to observe an employee performing their daily work in their environment. It allows you to explore specific careers and to get a realistic picture of the tasks performed for that job. This will allow you to make an informed decision about your career of choice.

Who should job shadow? 

If you have a career in mind and have a connection to someone that will allow you to shadow them, then it’s a good idea to take advantage of that opportunity! Make a connection with someone who performs the job you are hoping to have and see if they can mentor you a bit.  If you’re indecisive about careers, narrow down your list and then begin to explore those careers by job shadowing.

What questions should I ask when I shadow someone? 

This is your chance to ask questions from those you are shadowing. Questions such as; What made you choose this career? What type of education do you need to perform this job?  What are your favorite and least favorite things about this career? If you could go back and do anything differently, what would it be? What advice do you have for my education and transition to this career?

When is the best time to shadow someone? 

Junior year is a great time to job shadow. That’s when most students start to get serious about life after high school. They’ve had time to think about careers and have a better grasp of their talents and interests.  Students are involved in so many activities that summer shadowing seems to be easier to schedule, with fewer conflicts. Also, because the majority of people work Monday through Friday, it is often easier to schedule a job shadow during the summer when you are not in school. Job shadowing experiences can evolve into more than just one day or you may want to shadow various businesses or professions, so to have more flexibility plan for summer shadowing.

Where can I find job shadowing opportunities? 

 Check with your school counselor or someone in your school’s career office. Often times, they will have connections with agencies or companies that offer job shadowing opportunities. You might also contact someone in the human resources office at companies to let them know what career you are interested in and if they could provide you with a job shadowing experience.

Why would I want to job shadow? 

By getting an inside look at what a person does on a daily basis, you will be able to determine if you would enjoy performing those tasks.  Not only are you observing the work but also how much interaction this person has with their co-workers, the public, and management. What is the work environment like? Do they stand on their feet all day, sit at a desk for the majority of the shift, or a combination of both? Do they have to lift heavy objects or is there a risk of being injured on the job? If working with the public, what are the interactional experiences like in this position? Is there a lot of stress or is it a very friendly environment? Most of those questions should be answered after your job shadow experience is complete.

Job shadowing can save you a lot of time and money when it comes to college! Some students enter college with a degree in mind and end up changing their major after a year or two, and that’s okay!  However, students who change their minds after they’ve taken many “core courses” toward a specific major, end up spending extra semesters in college taking additional classes…and extra time means extra money!