Written by Audrey Bledsoe, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Career Services and Education
Spring break is just around the corner, and many Fisher undergrads are using the time to do company visits and job shadowing. This is a great opportunity to spend time with industry professionals and to learn about potential career paths. If do not have any plans over the break, think about setting up some job shadowing experiences! You can do this on your own through personal networking and reaching out to friends, family, alumni, and other connections.
Here are some things you should do to prepare for your job shadow experience:
- Appropriate attire—communicate in advance with your company to find out what you should wear. This isn’t a job interview, so you won’t likely need to wear a suit unless everyone at the company wears suits, but you DO want to dress to impress. Usually business casual is the most appropriate dress for a day of shadowing.
- Company research—it is smart to spend some time researching both the company and the department you will be shadowing so that you can ask some good questions. While the most important thing is to be a good listener, it is also important to show curiosity by asking questions that you have thought of in advance. Career Management has a great handout on networking with several examples of these questions.
- Notepad/pen—take notes! Again, you want to demonstrate interest in the company so they can see your curiosity and desire to learn. It also is good to take notes so that later you can reflect back on the day and go over what you learned.
- LinkedIn research—if you know a specific person you will be following throughout the day, try going on LinkedIn to do some research on the individual’s background. This can help you understand their work history and help you generate better questions that are more tailored to them.
- Map out your travel plans—if you will be driving to the company, try doing a test run during the same time you will be going on the day of your job shadow. For example, if you are supposed to get to the company by 8:00 am, you will be traveling during rush hour and you will likely need to allow extra time to get there. Make sure you are on time (or early!). Also, have a phone number of a person you can call to notify if you will be running late.
- Clarify your goals—what are you hoping to get out of this experience? Are you hoping to learn about the company’s culture to see if it is a place you would like to work someday? Are you hoping to learn about more about the industry? Do you want to walk away with an idea of what a day in the life of a certain professional looks like? Do you want to network and make connections with professionals at the company? Make a list of what you would like to learn, and then make sure you ask questions that get you the answers you are looking for.
- Be ready for small talk—often times the conversations you have with employees at the company might be informal. If you are nervous about what to talk about, try reading up on some current events to have some talking points in mind. Stick to things like sports, entertainment, food, weather, family, hobbies, travel, and company or industry news. Avoid anything controversial (i.e. religion, politics, sex, and money).
Once you have adequately prepared using the list above, you are ready for your job shadow experience! Enjoy the day and soak in as much information as possible. Remember, you are there to LEARN!
Lastly, make sure you follow up with a thank you note that expresses your gratitude for the time they spent with you. You can either send a handwritten thank you note in the mail (which is always a special touch), or you can send an email. Send thank you notes to anyone you shadowed throughout the experience. In the note, remind them of certain topics you discussed or things you learned during the day.
You never know what you will learn at the end of a job shadow day. You may find your dream career or the perfect company—OR on the other hand, you may simply learn about something you DON’T want to do, which is fine! There’s no doubt about it; job shadowing helps you narrow down your career choices so you can be more focused in the future, and that’s always a good thing!