Internship Etiquette - Job Shadowing 101 - Posted by Mike Monteiro | August 9th, 2010


The routine of higher education has progressed to a point where the internship has become a necessary element of the path to the cap and gown. Many colleges and universities have internships as a requirement, and some institutions even place students within them. While this is great for preparing an entire generation with the skills necessary to transition from college to career, it no longer distinguishes a student as more ambitious than their peers. These days, it seems that internships are no longer an option and is now something that employers expect to see on your resume.

So if everyone is getting internships, how do you set yourself apart from the pack? One of the best ways to do this is to find a job shadow opportunity. While the internship “alternatives” may all seem similar (i.e., mentorships, externships, etc), a job shadow is the quickest and most simple way to show that you have drive. The logic behind participating is the same as for an internship; it’s what you can’t learn inside the classroom. While the act of job shadowing is well utilized amongst medical students, it can and should be applied to any sort of career.

What is job shadowing?

Job shadowing is basically what it sounds like…you choose a position within an industry you’re interested in (a “job”), and set up a time to follow someone around and observe their daily routine (be their “shadow”). While companies like sets up day-long job shadows on behalf of an interested candidate, it’s common for students to contact individuals on their own.

The Benefits

The pressures and expectations that come with internships, externships, and mentorships are not present in a job shadowing opportunity. It’s a guaranteed positive experience, and despite the brevity, it can often lead to getting important contacts and even job offers. In a single day, a student can discover that they are completely uninterested in a job that they had previously considered pursuing as a career. In addition, a job shadow gives you the opportunity to answer important questions to help narrow down your career path. The career blogger Kelli Schmidt briefly accounts her recent job shadow experience. One may ask: Can I see myself doing this? Is this the environment I expected from this industry? Is this job interesting? Did I expect business to be conducted in this manner?

How do you get started?

First, you should look for jobs that apply to a career that interests you, not just your dream job. Say you’ve had your heart set on being a teacher since you were 10, but have recently become interested in practicing law after watching a certain television show – look for a job shadowing opportunity. Or maybe you’ve always excelled in and enjoyed studying sciences, but before you gear your studies towards a rigorous and highly specified degree – look for a job shadowing opportunity. Even if you don’t have any hang-ups about your major choice at all, you should still consider seeing how the industry works from a first-person perspective.

Maximize your opportunity

To have a successful experience, be prepared with questions, wear professional attire, and have a positive attitude; excitement is contagious in the work place. Job Shadowing can be done throughout the year as opposed to only during breaks or season-specific programs. Just remember to get permission before you show up at the office in a suit and start following around the creative director.


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