Job shadowing is an example of on-the-job training wherein a student or trainee observes a tenured or senior employee as they fulfill their day-to-day responsibilities and tasks at work.

In this setup, the trainee watches closely as the employee operates specific tools or software necessary for the job, follows a specific work routine, or provides tours of the office to show how the company culture works.

There is much to learn about job shadowing and why it is an effective learning experience for newly hired staff. That said, keep reading this article to understand how job shadowing works and when it is best to do it. Let’s start!

Key Takeaways

  • Job shadowing is the process of observing an employee perform their job as part of a company’s skills training or onboarding process.
  • An internship can last for three to four months, entails entry-level tasks, and may or may not be paid. Job shadowing can be done as part of an internship and is often unpaid.
  • By participating in a work shadowing opportunity, you can learn more about the job, assess your current skills, and check whether the role is a good fit for you.
  • The best ways to find job shadowing opportunities include attending job fairs, asking for professional recommendations, sending a letter of intent, and seeking advice from a career counselor.

What is Job Shadowing?

What is Job Shadowing?

Job shadowing, also called work shadowing, is part of an onboarding process that lets trainees tag along with one of the employees for a couple of hours or weeks to observe them as they carry out their jobs.

A person who does the work shadowing is sometimes called a shadow, while the worker being observed is called the host.

Shadows may also accompany the staff being observed as they attend team and client meetings or interact with employees from other departments.

There are three types of job shadowing, namely:

  • Observation. In this type of job shadowing, the trainee or new hire spends a specific period watching the host attentively while also gaining more information about the role.
  • Regular briefings. This entails shadowing the host only for tasks assigned to the intern or trainee. Regular briefings are usually done for shadows who will likely work directly later on with the host.
  • Hands-on. Hands-on work shadowing usually ensues after the shadow has observed the host for a significant amount of time. They are then given the opportunity to take on some of the tasks they have watched the host carry out.

Job Shadowing vs. an Internship

The main difference between job shadowing and an internship is that work shadowing mostly involves observing the host, while an internship includes performing entry-level tasks. Job shadowing can also be part of an internship program.

Job shadowing can last for a few days to a couple of weeks, and it is often not paid. In contrast, an internship can take as long as three to four months, and is usually compensated.

5 Benefits of Job Shadowing

Benefits of Job Shadowing

The main benefits of job shadowing include providing students and trainees a closer look at the demands and responsibilities that come with the role. However, there are also more interesting job shadowing benefits for job candidates that are worth looking into, such as:

#1. Developing New Skills

Observational learning through job shadowing is an effective way for students, new hires, or trainees to adapt to the work environment and pick up skills that are relevant to the role.

In an observational study by Subkhan Rojuli et al., key indicators such as attentional, motivational, retention, motor reproduction, and behavioral processes were used to gauge and affirm that learning through observation significantly impacts job readiness.

Sometimes, the best way to explain how to perform a certain job is by providing an in-person demonstration.

#2. Networking

Job shadowing can create a foundation for excellent networking opportunities for students and trainees who are new to the job or industry. Shadows immerse themselves in the company culture by interacting with employees and supervisors from different departments.

It is also a great opportunity for fresh graduates to expand their professional network and find potential mentors who will gladly guide them in building their careers.

By establishing a solid work support system early on, shadows get to build their confidence, gain insightful advice from industry professionals, and even market their skills and capabilities to potential employers.

In the long run, shadows will also have a clearer idea of their career goals, thereby allowing them to figure out how to thrive and be successful in their chosen profession.

#3. Bridging Individual Differences

At times, a company or department may require junior employees to do work shadowing when being introduced to new tools or software, undergoing mentorship programs, or transferred to a different department.

Since work shadowing enables shadows to ask queries about the task, tool, or project, it helps break down behavioral barriers that are negatively affecting communication and work productivity.

#4. Identifying Relevant Skills

Closely observing the host perform their daily tasks enables shadows to reflect on the skills and knowledge that they currently possess.

For instance, newly hired digital marketing personnel may learn that they need to brush up on their social media skills and knowledge of the latest search engine optimization (SEO) trends.

Another example would be a fresh graduate realizing that one of the core competencies required for their desired career includes advanced technical skills or excellent decision-making capabilities.

Consequently, shadows make more informed decisions about whether pursuing the role is a good call for them or not.

#5. Encouraging Self-Development

Job shadowing can be fast-paced and entails flexibility and resourcefulness. Aside from providing trainees, new hires, and students a chance to reflect on their skills, it also pushes them to be more self-reliant and adaptable to their environment.

Not only that, work shadowing can also be inspiring when there is open communication and a good rapport between the host and the shadow. As such, trainees and new hires feel more motivated to improve and meet company or industry expectations.

When is Job Shadowing Necessary?

From an employer’s perspective, job shadowing is necessary when training or onboarding new employees.

By allowing new members of the team to observe, take notes, and ask questions about the job expectations and key responsibilities, it becomes easier for employers to assess the most suitable department or project to assign to them.

Some jobs, such as teaching, serving in restaurants, being a line cook, and selling products or services, can be extremely demanding and fast-paced.

As such, new recruits must first have a solid grasp of the tools they must use and the scope of responsibilities they must fulfill to be productive and efficient.

Meanwhile, employees may find work shadowing convenient if their jobs require them to learn new skills or improve their work performance. They can easily set aside time to do job shadowing in between their work hours.

Picking up new skills and more efficient techniques to fulfill their tasks through observation is also typical when employees get promoted or transferred to a different department or branch.

5 Tips & Best Practices for Job Shadowing

Choose the Right Coach

The five tips and best practices for job shadowing we’ve listed and explained below will help you identify and prepare for work shadowing opportunities that may be instrumental in advancing your career.

Let’s explore each of them:

#1. Choose the Right Coach

If you are an employee who is about to transition to a new role in the company, it is best to choose a coach or supervisor you feel most comfortable with to mentor you.

At times, a supervisor’s coaching style may not be suitable or compatible with how a trainee or employee absorbs new information and skills.

A collaborative atmosphere is important in any job shadowing setup because it sets the tone for how knowledge and skills are exchanged between the host and the person who does the shadowing.

Familiarity with how a coach works and trains junior employees and new hires is likewise key to a successful mentorship. Once you’ve chosen a coach for your job shadowing, remember to ask for mentorship in a professional manner.

#2. Develop a Detailed Plan

Define your objectives for participating in a job shadowing opportunity.

You may be a college student who took part in a work shadowing event sponsored by a nearby company. You must also decide whether you envision yourself working for the same company in the near future or not.

Having a detailed plan or course of action for joining or volunteering for a job shadowing opportunity helps narrow down your options for when you begin job hunting.

#3. Focus on Confidentiality

When job shadowing in the healthcare sector, you will likely encounter confidential information from different clients regarding their health conditions, medication, and medical history.

There are also other types of professions that deal with sensitive customer data, such as a cybersecurity engineer, system administrator, and a security analyst.

If you are ever assigned to a job shadow in an industry that handles sensitive information about other individuals or organizations, pay close attention to how your host handles each client’s information. Make sure to apply these steps once the responsibility is passed on to you.

#4. Research About the Company

List some of the companies where you would like to work. Then, try to gather information or research these companies. Nowadays, it is easy to find a company page on Linkedin and even on social media sites such as Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram.

Focus your search on checking out their core values or mission, company culture, compensation benefits, and skills training opportunities.

Try to find feedback from current and former employees to get a better idea of what the work environment is like. If possible, you can also send inquiries through their website to find out whether they allow new hires, students, or fresh graduates to do job shadowing.

#5. Create a Professional Portfolio

The moment you manage to land a job shadowing opportunity is also the best time to start building or updating your professional portfolio.

A portfolio for a job interview is a compilation of all your professional experiences, from internships and on-the-job training to onboarding for a new position and learning new and advanced skills related to the job.

The key is to ensure you have a detailed and updated record of your past work experiences that help underscore your career expertise and readiness for the role you wish to pursue in the future.

Job Shadowing Examples

Job Shadowing for a Promotion

Here are a few examples of job shadowing that exhibit how it can take place depending on the industry or the shadow’s level of expertise:

Job Shadowing for a New Hire

Jessi was recently hired as the new junior programmer. She is also a fresh graduate, making it a requirement for her to learn the ropes and get familiarized with the IT department’s workflow and workplace culture.

She is scheduled for a two-week work shadowing process, which involves both regular briefings and hands-on basic tasks for some clients and projects. Jessi will also be under the supervision of one of the company’s senior programmers.

Job Shadowing for a Student

Amara is interested in pursuing a career in journalism in the future—it’s her dream job. As such, she inquires at her school’s career office about any upcoming job fairs, company office tours, or job shadowing opportunities for students.

Through the support of her academic advisor, she was granted a three-day opportunity to do a job shadowing at their local broadcasting station.

Job Shadowing for a Promotion

Chris was recently promoted to Client Services Manager and was given the chance to choose his preferred mentor or supervisor who would guide him in his new role.

As Chris began his mentorship, he also had to do work shadowing across all the different departments that worked closely with the company’s managers and clients.

His work shadowing experience also included observing his mentor and learning the different tools and processes for handling each client request or project.

11 Insightful Questions to Ask During Job Shadowing

It is crucial to know the right questions to ask during job shadowing, as it will help you gain a more accurate assessment of the advantages and disadvantages that come with the nature of the job.

Enumerated below are 12 examples of job shadowing questions to help you gather the information you need about the role or the work shadowing process:

  • What is your job title and role in this company?
  • What made you pursue this career?
  • How did you land a job at this company?
  • What are some of the things you like about working here?
  • What type of educational background, training, or professional skills are required for this job?
  • What are examples of tools or software required to fulfill your day-to-day duties?
  • What are some job shadowing advantages and disadvantages at this company?
  • What is the salary range for each level in your department or field?
  • How does the company support its employees’ career advancement and growth?
  • Can you give me examples of the biggest challenges you had to overcome while fulfilling this role and how you overcame these hurdles?
  • What advice would you give a student or a new hire who is interested in pursuing this job or career?

How to Get a Job Shadowing Opportunity: 4 Trusted Methods

People networking

There are different ways to get a job shadowing opportunity. In truth, finding job shadowing opportunities often overlaps with the most popular methods to get an internship.

Some of these methods include:

  • Reaching out to your network. If you already have previous work experience, try to reach out to your former supervisors and colleagues. Ask them if there are any job shadowing opportunities that they know of, and if possible, try to request a recommendation.
  • Attending job fairs. Job fairs are an excellent source of job shadowing and even job interview opportunities. When attending a job fair, make sure you wear the proper attire and prepare your resume and credentials.
  • Asking your academic advisor. There are also job shadowing opportunities for high school students, and you can ask your academic advisor or career counselor for guidance or advice.
  • Sending a letter of intent. If you’re interested in working for a select number of companies, see if you can confirm whether they offer job shadowing or any similar opportunities. Once you’ve verified that they do, send your letter of intent and express your interest in undergoing a skills training or work shadowing process with them.

Final Thoughts

Job shadowing is a great opportunity to acquire new skills and get better acquainted with your dream career.

For students, observing different work environments, departments, and job roles helps them adjust their career expectations and get an idea of what it will be like to be a part of the working class in the near future.

Conversely, job shadowing helps experienced professionals assess their current skill set, expand their perception of the work demands, and determine how to be more efficient in their new career.

All in all, you can always use this article as your reliable guide in finding job shadowing opportunities and staying equipped for any that come your way.

Job Shadowing FAQ

#1. Can you get hired from job shadowing?

Technically, you cannot get hired from job shadowing, but it is a good sign that you have a high chance of landing the role.

When a company says you will be job shadowing for the role you are applying for, it usually means that they see your potential to suit the role and want to see whether you would fit in with the company culture by allowing you to have first-hand experience of the demands that come with the job.

#2. Can I put job shadowing on my resume?

Yes, you can put job shadowing on your resume if the experience is relevant to the role you want to apply for or the industry where you want to build your career. That said, on your resume, add job shadowing under your professional experience.

#3. Why is job shadowing important?

Job shadowing is important because it gives potential new hires a glimpse of what their job of interest is really like. It also provides them an opportunity to ask questions about the role and gain relevant hands-on experience that they can use later on.