Job Shadowing: A Pathway to Professional Insight and Growth

Job Shadowing is a career development experience that individuals engage in to learn more about a career path, industry, or organization by spending time both observing and interviewing an experienced professional on the job.

A job shadow is similar to an ‘informational interview’ however it provides the in-person discussion paired with the ‘on-site’ observation.

Click on the titles below to learn more about how to set yourself up with a great job shadowing experience.

Older male professional showing a younger male student how a machine works.

There are many benefits to job shadowing, some of which include:

  • Ability to see and experience the day-to-day activities first-hand
  • Opportunity to observe and experience a particular organization or industry’s work culture
  • Clarify if the job/industry/organization will align with your career interests, objectives and goals
  • Facilitate a connection and in-depth conversation with experienced professionals in a field of interest
  • Become a more knowledgeable candidate or applicant into the organization/industry
  • Get inside advice and insight on how to break into an organization/industry
  • Build your professional network by meeting many different professionals within an organization/industry

Finding professionals to shadow will take some persistence and often some help making connections. Below are some ideas to consider:

  • Think about your personal network and consider reaching out to friends, family, teachers, mentors, and co-workers to see if they have any warm connections to people in the jobs, industries or organizations you’re wanting to shadow.
  • Make an appointment with your UNL Career Coach who may have some connections to alumni or employers in your desired interest area.
  • Search UNL’s Handshake for organizations/recruiters in careers of interest and reach out to ask if you could shadow someone in their organization.
  • Create a LinkedIn Profile and search the UNL Alumni page, as well as other LinkedIn connections and reach out to inquire if you could shadow them or someone else in their organization.
  • Talk with your academic advisor or a faculty member that teaches coursework connected to a career area of interest to see if they could help connect you.

The best way to request a job shadow is to call the organization or reach out via email. When requesting consider sharing that you’re interested in a particular career and a brief description of what you’re hoping to gain from the shadow experience.

See below for a sample email message:

Dear Jane Andrews,

I am a first-year student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in Communication and interested in learning more about a career in Organizational Development. I came across your profile through (list how you found their contact) and would like to set up a job shadow with the hopes of learning more about what a typical day looks like in your field.

Please let me know if this is something you would have time for and if so, what schedule would be most convenient for you? Thank you for your time and consideration.


Herbie Husker

The following action items will help you get the most out of your job shadow experience:

  1. Research the professional that you’re planning to shadow. This will provide you with more context on their background and experience, as well as help you with small talk topics throughout your time together.
  2. Research the organization that you will be visiting for your job shadow. Check out it’s company mission, vision, goals, organizational structure, social media feeds, etc.
  3. Prepare a list of questions to ask on your visit that inquire about the industry, the organization, and even the person’s professional experience.
  4. Check-in a few days before the meeting to confirm if the appointment still works for the professional and get any and all logistics needed so you can arrive ahead of time (10 – 15 minutes early). Additionally ask where will you park, do you need to check in at a front desk, where does your contact want to meet you, etc? Also, inquire about the dress code so you can dress appropriately.
  5. Bring something to write on and take some notes during your time there to show interest and so you can remember some of the important details that you learned during you visit.
  6. Turn off your phone during the visit to minimize distraction and show respect that they have your attention and focus for the entire visit.
  7. Be engaged and show appreciation throughout the visit by making eye contact, nodding, asking good follow-up questions, etc.
  8. Write down the names of the people that gave you their time and follow up with a thank you email or card to everyone who gave you their time, insight and advice. (These folks are now apart of your network, so figure out ways to stay in touch, especially if you pursue this career path).
  9. Reflect on your experience: What did you learn? What was the best part? Are you still interested or was it not what you had hoped? What concerns do you have? Do you still have unanswered questions? What skills need to be further developed to be successful in this field?