Participation Research Through Job Shadowing

job shadow

What You will Find on This Page . . .

  1. What is Job Shadowing?
  2. Frequently Asked Questions
  3. Examples of Shadowing Opportunities


There is an Job Experience Worksheet which goes with this page. It’s in Career Manual 2 – Appendix 5.

All Tests, Inventories and Worksheet Templates for this site are available in an easily printable format in Career Manuals 1 and 2.




What is Job Shadowing?

‘Job Shadowing’ is pretty much what it says. It is following someone around, who is doing their job. In other words, you go into the workplace, and observe someone doing a job you’d like to do by shadowing them.

  • You get permission to follow them around “on the job”
  • You see what they really do
  • You get to ask them questions
  • You know the amount of stress they deal with in that type of work.
  • You see the kinds of demands made on them
  • You see how they handle these demands.


And then you decide if this is something you want to be dealing with on a daily basis, yourself.

Job Shadowing began as a High School program to acquaint students with the ‘Real World’ workplace. It has now moved into Colleges, Trades Schools, and is slowly being made available to non-student adults, who want to understand, and have some contact with a job, before getting involved in training or applying to work at it.

These experiences are invaluable. They give you a chance to ‘feel out’ a job, and also to see the kinds of people who are attracted to these jobs. Are their personality types similar to yours? If so, you may have found a “career match”.



Frequently Asked Questions or FAQs

How long is a ‘Job Shadow’ Experience?

The length of time for a ‘Shadow’ experience, depends on the nature of the job. It is usually a day long. You make arrangements with the coordinator or the employer, to come in and observe when the work is being done.

What kinds of workplaces are open to these ‘Work Shadow’ experiences?

The most likely workplaces to be open to these ‘Shadow’ experiences are socially-oriented or helping jobs, like teachers, ministers, entertainers, the fitness and recreation industry, hospitality industry, and so on, especially, if they are looking for potential volunteers, new recruits, or special talent.

That being said, many other workplaces are opening up to being seen by interested members of the public. Newspaper Newsrooms, courtrooms, marketing firms, real estate agencies. These workplaces may also have their own agendas.

When calling around, you can ask: “How do you see these Job Shadow experiences as benefiting you? They should be frank and forthright as to what they are looking for, by allowing these arrangements.

How are these ‘Job Shadows’ arranged?

Sometimes these experiences are better arranged through a third party. For example: a high school if you are still in school, or your college if you are in college, or through instructors in adult training programs.

Career Counselors in private practice can also arrange these for their clients, who simply want to experience a particular career opportunity.

Can I arrange ‘Shadowing’ Opportunities myself?

Yes, you can. The best way is through Informational Interviews: It’s possible at the end of an Informational Interview – if you feel that you have established a comfortable rapport with your interviewee
– to mention that it would be helpful, if you could ‘Job Shadow’ someone in the company, doing that particular job. At that point, they may feel they know you enough to determine if they can trust you.

Through Mutual Acquaintances – if you know someone who knows someone . . . often that is enough to just call up and say you are interested, and ask if they know of someone who’d be open to this arrangement.

This is using The Referral Method. Or, better still, have your mutual acquaintance arrange the Job Shadow for you. They will have to vouch for you anyway.

You may need to be creative about this. Watch for opportunities to ask about Job Shadowing at Career Fairs, Open Houses, Job Information Interviews.

What if the employer doesn’t agree to allowing me to ‘Job Shadow’?

Calling up an employer yourself, and asking if they welcome Job Shadows, is risky, and not for you if you are sensitive to rejection. Remember, you are an outsider, and unless they have their own reasons, of benefit to them, they will not allow it.

Most workplaces are not in the habit of opening their doors to the public, because of insurance and security risks. So just thank them politely, and move on to another workplace that may be open to you.

You can’t take it personally if you are refused by any employer. Each ‘work shadow’ also requires a lot of effort on the part of employers, and they may not think it’s worthwhile for them. Any ‘Shadow’ experience is completely at the discretion of the employer.

Why would I need to Job Shadow?

‘Job Shadowing’ – is mainly for those who feel they really need this kind of experience, to be sure that this is the work for them. Maybe they have narrowed their options down to two jobs, and they aren’t sure which one they should choose.
This is one of the best ways to confirm a fit for you. This kind of research, however, is not for everyone.

‘Shadowing’ would be one of the last steps in the research process, after you have done everything else. This is an optional arrangement. You would choose it if you are pretty sure that this is the work you want to do, and you just want to confirm it’s right for you.

If you live in a small community where everyone, pretty well, knows everyone else, you have a much better chance of arranging one of these yourself, because they know you, your father or mother, or your grandparents.
In that case, look around your community for opportunities to ‘Job Shadow’.




For More on Job Shadowing



This Link Will Take You Through Steps 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the Program


Links to Step 1 - The 5 Career Tests on This Site

Step 1 - Discovering Who You Are
Links to Step 2 - Career Exploration

Step 2 - Exploring Your Career Options
Links to Step 3 - Getting into the Nitty Gritty

Step 3 - Doing the Research For Your Dream Job
Links to Step 4 - Taking Care of Your Career

Step 4 - Managing Your Career - Doing Career Planning
Are you wondering: "What Career is Best for Me?"




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