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Everything You Need to Know About Job Shadows

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Student doing a job shadow in technology

What are your plans after graduation?

If you are a high school student, this question is familiar. Whether you have considered going to college, beginning post-secondary training, or getting an internship, your ultimate goal is to pursue a career. But how do you know which career path will be the right fit for you?

High school is an optimal time to start developing career awareness to discover your career options. To begin, participating in work-based learning opportunities like job shadows will allow you to gain insight into specific careers and help you set realistic career goals for yourself.

Can I visualize myself in this role? Do I want to take the next steps towards pursuing this career? A job shadow will answer this and more!

What is a job shadow?

A job shadow is an experience that lets a student visit a workplace to observe a professional in action. Job shadows provide a valuable opportunity for students to explore occupations by exposing them to potential career paths. They help students develop an awareness about careers in fields they are interested in so that they can better prepare for life after graduation.

Job shadows are designed to help you:

° Recognize different career options that are available to you.

° Determine the skills, education, and experience required to enter a career.

° Show you the connection between your classwork and the real world.

° Gain insight into a career from a realistic perspective.

° Make informed decisions about a career path you may pursue after high school.

° Network with professionals who can provide career advice and support.

° Develop interpersonal skills through a direct application in the workplace.

° Experience what work environments and cultures look like in specific careers.

A job shadow host might take you on a tour of their business, or have you sit in on a meeting with them. Wherever you shadow, you’ll want to make the most of your experience.

How to make your job shadow experience a success

    • Research, the company you are shadowing. You will want to start your job shadow with prior knowledge about who the company is and what they do. You will also want to pre-determine the roles and responsibilities of the career you are shadowing.
    • Prepare to introduce yourself. You’ll want to make a great first impression when you introduce yourself during your job shadow. You can prepare to introduce yourself by developing an elevator pitch, or a 30-second speech that briefly describes who you are, and what your career goals are.
    • Be prepared with questions you will ask during the job shadow. A job shadow is a perfect time to find out everything you want to know about the career you are exploring. Plan to ask questions such as:
      • ° What are the daily tasks of this job?
      • ° What kind of experience would you suggest someone pursuing this field should have?
      • ° What are some of the challenges you have encountered in this job?
      • ° What is the best way to enter this career path?
    • Display proper conduct and dress appropriately for the workplace you are visiting.
    • Be observant. After all, that’s what job shadows are all about, but make sure you observe everything! Interactions between employees and customers, the work environment, and the different responsibilities employees have will all play a crucial role in your career exploration process. Take notes to use as a future reference point for comparing jobs after you complete your job shadows.

Should you participate in a job shadow? 

Job shadows are beneficial to students preparing to determine their future academic and career goals. In fact, after a Junior Achievement Job Shadow Initiative, 90 percent of surveyed students said that their job shadow experience made them more aware of career options. Another study conducted by Junior Achievement found that 85 percent of surveyed teachers said that job shadowing increased student interest in careers and post-secondary education. Experiential learning opportunities have proven to make a lasting impact on the way students view the importance of career exploration.

For years, students at the Virtual Learning Academy have completed job shadows as an extension of their online coursework. VLACS students have shadowed careers in Health Care, Education, Law Enforcement, Culinary Arts, Veterinary Science, and many more!

Now, we have officially added job shadows to our learning catalog so that students have an opportunity to shadow careers they would like to begin exploring while earning credits and digital badges! Start thinking about your career options and participate in a job shadow with VLACS!

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