Job Shadowing and Internships
by Randall Bedwell
Job shadowing and internships give students a real world look at their chosen field, while also allowing them to gain much-needed introductory experience. More and more, it’s become harder for students to land that first job out of college unless they have gained some type of industry experience while working on their degree. Both job shadowing and internships can help fill this void, giving these students an advantage over the competition for jobs.
What is job shadowing? Job shadowing is designed to give students an inside look at a particular position within a company. Students who participate in a job shadowing experience spend at least a day – but often up to a week – shadowing a professional in their chosen industry. The host professional will offer a tour of the company, introductions to department managers and senior level executives, and also answer questions about their work.
Job shadowing experiences are designed to offer an in-depth introduction to what it is like working in the industry. The student observes the typical daily activities of the host, and sees which skills and training are necessary to excel in the position. There is also usually time to discuss other aspects of the company and industry as a whole.
Why should students consider job shadowing? Job shadowing does not offer the extensive, on-the-job training provided during an internship, but that is part of the appeal. Job shadowing allows students to explore a career path with little time commitment. For students who know they are interested in accounting, for example, shadowing hosts in several different industries to find their best fit is a good idea.
For students who already have other experience as an intern, opting for a job shadowing experience at a dream employer can provide the connections with managers and human resources personnel to ensure their resume gets another look.
How are internships different? Internships give students and recent graduates a chance to test drive their future career while also making important connections in their industry and learning skills necessary to get the job done. Internships – whether paid or unpaid – are a great way to gain the first-hand, real-world experience employers in today’s job market expect from applicants.
Students who participate in an internship receive all the benefits of a job shadowing experience, only much more in-depth and over a longer term. Not only do these students gain experience and learn tricks of the trade from an experienced professional, they work side-by-side with those already in the industry.
How do students find job shadowing experiences or internships? No matter if you attend a local community college or a large state university, your school most likely has a career center or student services center that keeps tabs on local and regional internships in almost any field. Many companies also list this type of experience on their websites, or a call to the human resources department will lead you in the right direction.
No matter what career path you are considering, gaining real world experience and building strong professional connections in the industry before you apply for a job are of paramount importance. While most offer little to no pay, job shadowing or interning can really pay off in the long run when you land your dream dob.
Randall Bedwell is a Tennessee Promise mentor, adjunct college professor and President of College Path Consultants, an independent educational consulting firm, in Franklin, Tennessee.