What is job shadowing? Why is it important?
By Sheik Abid Rahman and Samantha Cesario
Job shadowing is an activity where a student or job seeker follows and observes a professional expert as they work for anywhere between a few hours to several weeks (Tallo, 2020). It is done to get a better understanding of what a professional of a particular career does at work on a daily basis. Through job shadowing, one can learn about a company’s culture, the typical day to day tasks and priorities, core skill sets required to excel in a given position, and ask questions about a professional’s first-hand experiences. It is a helpful way to learn more about the job you are interested in pursuing. Job shadowing may be planned informally or as part of a formal program organized by a university.
We spoke to Ashton Jila, Partnership Specialist for the Co-operative Internship Program at FEAS, to get his input on job shadowing.
- Why should students consider job shadowing?
Ashton mentioned that job shadowing allows a student to get first hand information on the industry insights, the details of the specific role they are shadowing including day to day experience, technical and soft skills required for the job as well as any other relevant skills the student would need to work in that field. He mentioned that you would also be able to make a professional network connection which is crucial to advancing your career.
- How can a student engage in a job shadow?
According to Ashton it all starts with identifying a host employer. A host employer is someone who is willing to put the time and effort into going over the details of the role you are shadowing. Moreover, they should be willing to share more about the company culture as well. However, Ashton mentioned that you must ensure that the host employer has been notified of your expectations and be able to communicate that effectively with them.
- During their job shadowing experience, how can a student identify core components of a job they are shadowing, including skills required, day to day functions, long-term and short-term outcomes, and success metrics?
Ashton suggests that you should do the research on the company and the job descriptions available. You should go over all the core competencies needed for the role and ask about how one can be successful in that role. This will show the employer that you are proactive and interested in learning more about their industry.
What steps can you take?
By Julian Faita
As someone with no job shadowing experience, I tried to dive into the topic further to see if it might be useful in helping out with my future career. Through my research, these are the steps that I found to complete when looking for a job shadowing opportunity:
- First and foremost, find someone to interview! Ryerson offers great career resources and reaching out to someone from the career centre might help point you in the right direction.
- Once you have decided on someone to shadow, don’t hesitate to reach out to them! Introduce yourself and make sure to clarify that you are NOT looking for a job, that you just wish to explore your career opportunities, and want to learn more about what they do by tagging along with them for the day. If they agree, make sure to lock in on a time and place to meet for the day!
- Don’t forget to create a list of questions to ask and practice asking them beforehand.
- Dress professionally and arrive early as well. When you’re there try your best to get a sense of the work environment: if the environment is fast-paced, relaxed, based on individual work, or based on teamwork.
- After the day is complete, make sure to thank the individual that you were shadowing and take some time to reflect on your experience. Ask yourself some questions: Did you feel comfortable in that work environment? How could you be successful in that career? Are you interested in this line of work?
- Once you have done this, be sure to contact the individual that you shadowed, outlining your experience and potentially asking for a referral to a job that you could see yourself in.
All-in-all, doing this multiple times will help you build your professional network and your knowledge of the workforce in your industry. This will help determine if you want to stick to your career path or if maybe it’s not quite for you which is okay too!
By Iyvan Chandran
Job shadowing is recommended to all students as it allows you to align your industry focus. You will not only be able to narrow down your desired field of work, but also the technical and soft skills needed. Job shadowing also gives you the opportunity to show your skills and network to a potential employer and get your foot in the door as a new graduate placement opportunity. You will be able to get firsthand experience, tips and growth hacks from your mentor, leading to a refined version of yourself.
If you are interested in learning more about what it’s like to work in different professions, then make sure to connect with the staff at the Ryerson Career & Co-op Centre for advice and guidance.