4 Tips for an Awesome Job Shadow or Informational Interview

Informational interviews and job shadowing are great ways to be briefly exposed to a career field you are interested in by interacting with someone in the role.

In the student career coaching we do, our package offers arrangement of at least one job shadowing opportunity. This is how valuable we feel this component to career exploration really is.

The difference between the two is that an informational interview is just a conversation with the person in the job. It allows you to ask the person questions about how they got where they are, what the like (and don’t like) about their job, and get advice from them about how to pursue a career in the field.

A job shadow actually allows you to observe the person doing their job, and it usually takes place over the course of at least for one work day.   During the time the job shadow takes place, you can ask questions of the person about the job, just as you would in an informational interview.

Regardless of what which set-up you are engaging in, here are some tips for arranging and conducting a great job shadow or informational interview:

  1. Connect with the right person:  After you’ve narrowed a list of jobs you want to explore, consider whom you know in the field.  You may be able to connect with someone you already know through a civic, sports or church group.  If you are a student, your teachers, parents or relatives may know of someone in the field. If you don’t know of someone directly in the field, you may be able to explore LinkedIn or other social media outlets to locate and connect with someone in a role you wish to learn more about.  It is always better to try to locate someone you know directly or indirectly (through a mutual connection) than to try to ask someone you don’t know at all.
  2.  Ask to observe or meet in the right way:  If you know the person, call them directly and say, “Hi persons name.  This is your name.  (If you know the person indirectly, or through someone else, add, “Insert contact name here is a friend/relative/co-worker of mine and he /she said you would be an excellent person to talk to about insert career field here.). I’ve been doing some career exploration, and I am interested in the career field that you are in.  Would it be possible for me to meet with you for about 30 minutes to ask you some questions about what you do, and learn how I might gain more knowledge in order to be marketable in the field?”  If and when they say yes, say,  “Thank you, I really appreciate your time.  When would be a convenient time for you to meet?” Be flexible with their schedule and let them dictate a time to meet.   Note: If you are a student, you call them, not your parents!  This is about you stepping up to the plate to learn more, it’s not mom or dad’s job to do this for you! If you don’t know them, and you’re reaching out via social media say basically the same thing as above, but give a little bit more details about who you are and why you are interested in the field.  After you meet with them, you can ask they would be available for you to observe them on the job.
  3. Practice Good Etiquette. Keep your appointment, arrive on time, and dress as you would if you were in the field they are in.  For example, if they work in a bank, put on a suite.  If is in the construction industry, wear boots, long pants, etc.
  4.  Ask the right questions. Here are some questions you can use.  The Intern Queen also has some good questions to ask in an informational interview here.

If you’ve done an informational interview or job shadow, what was the most important take-away for you?

Mary Ila Ward

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