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Shadow Your Way Into a New Job

Topics: Career Advice

If you are seriously considering a role or career change, job shadowing your prospective position could get you closest to the actual experience of being on the job. Job shadowing is a technique, not only useful for fresh graduates, but also for experienced employees who are pondering a career move. As the term suggests, it is an opportunity to shadow the incumbent to understand the skills, behavior, and aptitude required to perform the job.


(Photo Credit: SteffanyZphotography/Flickr)

Some companies have a structured job shadowing program in place, but if yours is not one of them, here’s how you can approach it.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

1. Do your research

Do a bit of your own homework to understand what the position entails. Go through a job description if available, and brush up on basic skills. Even if you only intend to shadow the position, having a reasonable understanding will help you make the best use of the time you have. Take your manager into confidence. You may be away from your desk for most of the day, so seeking your manager’s approval is a good idea.

2. Talk to the host

Of course you need his permission before you start tailing the job shadow host. It’s just creepy if he has no idea why you’re following him everywhere. But in addition, do a short interview to understand the aspects of the job. Let the person know of your interest, and if there are any tidbits he can share. Set clear timelines as to how many hours/days you wish to shadow him and ask for advice.

3. Be the shadow

Often people want to make suggestions while they’re shadowing, or give their point of view. While this is very tempting, resist to the extent possible. Understand that you are merely here to get a sense of what your host is doing, not to be critical of their work. Absorb the workday as you see it, and you will have opportunities later to make any changes when you get into the role. Also, be ready to contribute if your host asks you to help.

4. Set some follow-up time

Once you’ve observed, set some time with your host to ask your follow-up questions from your day, and seek feedback. Use the opportunity to clarify your understanding.

While it goes without saying, don’t forget to thank your host for their time!

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever job shadowed/let another person shadow you? What was your experience like? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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