Career counselors often recommend that students do some job shadowing to verify a selected career path or to compare options. Following around a professional in the real world sounds like fun, right? Recognizing the value of job shadowing is a no-brainer. Identifying someone to shadow might take a bit more effort.
Start by considering anyone you might already know or know of in an occupation that interests you:
- Family members
- Friends’ parents
- Parents’ friends
- Church members
- A guest speaker from one of your classes or a student organization meeting
What if you rack your brain, and you still cannot think of anyone you know in a career that interests you? First, try to determine if your focus is too narrow. Do you know anyone in a related career? Second, start asking around. Talk to some of the people from the list above about your career interests, and ask if they know of someone who might be open to being interviewed or shadowed. When you hear the term “networking,” this is what they are talking about!
For some of you, you might need to talk to faculty in your area of study for leads. As a last resort, you might find it necessary to contact someone without having an existing connection. Professional organizations and the chamber of commerce for a city are good places to start. If you know typical employers of a certain kind of professionals, you know where to begin your search. The Baylor Alumni Directory and LinkedIn can help you in identifying any Baylor connnections at an employer that interests you.
A key thing to remember is that once you identify someone to contact, you want all communications with that person to be professional and courteous. If you are cold calling, identify yourself as a Baylor University student and explain why you think a shadowing opportunity or information could be helpful to you. Be clear that you are not calling to beg for a job or try to get an internship. Even when you are polite, the answer might still be “no” on occasion.” Don’t take it personally. It could be that the person is too busy or their employer does not allow shadowing. For those of you who are successful in lining up an opportunity, remember that you are only there to observe and learn, not to contribute to the work. Last, but not least, always send a note of thanks to follow up!
If you try all of the strategies above and still can’t identify someone to contact, leave us a comment. We are here to help!