What is Job Shadowing?- Definition

What is Job Shadowing?

What is Job Shadowing? Job shadowing refers to training through observation. In the method, the new employee or intern receives training by observing experienced workers in the same company. Such observational learning leads to a deeper understanding of their work.

It is usually for students, interns, or even newer employees who need to get used to working and adapt to the work environment and style. It is one of the best training methods for most posts since it helps newbies get accustomed and used to their work and help them become efficient workers.

Who Should and Does Job Shadowing?

Job shadowing is a training method preferred by many firms for training their newer employees. The method mostly involves the usual conduct of the regular employees with the efforts of the newer employees. The combination of both leads to the newer employees comprehending the working style and requirement.

Here are some people that could do Job Shadowing:

  • Students– Students on their summer or winter breaks may do job shadowing with their professors or other professions they admire. Sometimes the school/colleges themselves arrange such opportunities. 

Other times students initiate their interest and work on it. Either way, it is a great chance for students to observe workers in their dream careers and evaluate their choices. It is the ideal opportunity to grow and get an understanding or work since they will transition into that stage soon.

  • Interns– Interns that join the company for timed internships might also do such job shadowing of their seniors. Since the interns are usually newbies or even students who do not know the proceedings of the firm, having a firsthand experience becomes essential. 

By being in the main workplace and observing other workers carry themselves and work, they can understand how they are supposed to perform or behave. It also helps them become efficient interns in a short amount of time and perform well on their internship.

  • New Employees or Recruits– Just like interns, recruits or employees also require training to help them grasp the proceedings of the office. It requires a lot fewer resources and efforts than other learning methods but is just as effective in its results. 

New employees can get a hang of the workplace environment and how they should divide and go about their work. For employees working in vocal positions like customer relations or HR, they get to see their seniors interact with people and learn.

Why is Job Shadowing Ideal for firms?

Since firms prefer this form of training for their recruits, there must be some benefit to the firms themselves. Job shadowing is one of the most convenient training methods not only for the learner but also for the firms. It saves them much time and effort that would otherwise go into training.

Since the method mostly involves the senior employee doing their work, as usual, it does not take too many resources or time. On the other hand, training periods and activities to be organized are much more complicated and time take. Those activities also require a lot of effort from the firms’ side.

And even though job shadowing takes less effort, it is more efficient than other methods of training for employees. Since the employees are out in the office observing the normal working routine of another employee, they gain firsthand experience of the tasks. They learn much more through this process than any other.

Why is Job Shadowing Ideal for workers?

As it is for firms, job shadowing is also quite beneficial to workers. Especially in the case of new employees training for work, it is perfect. The nature of the training is quite effortless, so workers can observe their senior workers in real-time situations and how to they deal with them.

It not only helps them acquire skills necessary for work but also lets them see how they should act in specific situations. A lot of times the workers also get involved in the tasks and give their efforts. These small tasks can help them understand their work and correct their mistakes if any.

The crucial benefit is the real-life setup of the job which gives an honest outlook of the job and work to the employee. And it lets them decide if they want to pursue a career and can handle the workload or pressure, in the case of students or interns.

How Do You Do Job Shadowing?

Job shadowing is quite literally shadowing a regular employee of the company. The interns/employees that shadow another employee have to follow them around at all times. They have to observes how the regular employee goes about their work schedule. 

Everything from observing the employees while they work to getting involved and understanding how they work gets included. You can also ask questions or inquire about a particular part of their routine in the duration. The point is to understand the job requirements and get comfortable and use to the working routine.

For the jobs that require more visible performance points, job shadowing works the best. Since their work is visible and learnable just by looking at it, interns find it easier to understand. For example, if you are an intern at Wendy’s, you might need to observe a senior cashier for a week or so and see how they work before starting yourself.

Initiate the Process

An essential step in shadowing is to initiate the process and contact the concerned employers/workers. While this might seem difficult, many colleges and workplaces already support such shadowing. You might not know it, but your college might have a program for shadowing. Here are a few ways you can initiate shadowing:

  • Apply to job shadowing opportunities with independent firms. You do not need your college to reach out to companies for job shadowing. Many firms have such job shadowing programs and internships where you can receive training from a worker in the field. Since the program is beneficial to both parties, firms initiate such programs often. You need to do some research to find out firms you are interested in and see if they have such a program to offer. If they do, you can fill the application or contact them through an email and request for joining.
  • Apply to firms or independent workers for shadowing. If you do not study in a college or have a particular firm in mind for your work, worry not. You can politely request permission to shadow a worker by yourself. All you need to do is draft a formal email or letter addressed to the firm/worker. You should mention why you would like the opportunity and how you would contribute during the time. Even if the firm does not have a set program for shadowing, if you appeal well, they might let you perform job shadowing with their employee.
  • Apply to your school or college’s shadowing program. If you visit the career office in your college, you can inquire if your college has such a program. Various schools and colleges do have a program for the students and let them observe the work of professionals. It is not limited to the school staff; you might even get opportunities to shadow a worker in a firm. It is an ideal opportunity to gain experience and skills while you’re still studying.

Do Ample Research

Once you enter the job shadowing program or internship with a firm, the next step is to start researching. In the time between your application and the work, you should be able to do enough research for your work. The reason you need research is to understand the nature of the work better.

Even if you are interested in the work for a long time, you might not know all the little details and information about it. By doing research, you are preparing yourself with the facts that will become useful once you start working.

It is also a perfect method to earn brownie points with your mentor or senior who will help you with the shadowing. If you show your enthusiasm and be well informed about the job, the senior will be able to feel your sincerity. They will understand how much effort you put into the work, and lead to a better overall experience.

Make Preparations for Shadowing

Apart from research and looking up information about the work, you also need to prepare for the shadowing in other ways. You need to make sure that you have planned out the entire day and work to ensure that you can gain every last bit of experience possible. Preparation is essential to facilitate learning.

Without preparing, the actual process of shadowing won’t even be of much help to you. So here are things you should prepare before your shadowing schedule to ensure the best results:

  • Prepare yourself and familiarize yourself with the schedule. You may or may not receive an official schedule of the employees regarding the work, activity, and resting times. If you do receive it in advance, make sure to read it over and try to familiarize yourself with it. It will help you transition from task to task easily and see what is coming ahead.
  • Gather and organize information about the work in one place. As mentioned above, researching your part is an essential step in facilitating learning. By organizing and taking down notes of the work, you can be a faster and more efficient learner. Since you would already be aware of the basics, you will be able to grasp the work faster.
  • Choose an appropriate attire for the shadowing day. Whenever you visit a workplace, you should wear clothes that are appropriate for it. You may ask your mentor or employee to suggest a specific attire to wear in the office. It will also help you later on when you become an employee.
  • Note down any queries or questions you have regarding the work. Once you do your due research, you will become curious about various aspects of the work. You can frame these questions and write them down in a notebook or tablet to ask your mentor later. 
  • Make the questions concise yet accurate. You might have any queries regarding the work, but you should keep the questions as concise as possible. Since you might not have much time to ask the questions and receive answers all the while working, it is best to frame shorter questions. This way your questions will get answered, and no doubts will be left.
  • Leave space after the questions to fill in the answers. For detailed questions about the work, you should leave a gap after each question. It will let you fill in the answer when your senior explains it to you. It will keep the answer from getting forgotten or lost by you.
  • Always be prepared to take notes. Keep a notebook, notepad, or even an electronic device with you at all times to take notes. By taking notes about the work, you can remember the small details and be mindful of them when you apply them to your work. Even though a day’s memories won’t disappear, they won’t be clear enough either. You need to take physical notes to be able to refer to them when you are unsure.
  • Get ample sleep the day before the shadowing. One problem employees or students often make while shadowing or even working is that they stay up the previous night. Whether it’s to prepare for your work or even out of nervousness, the candidates stay up all night. It leads to lower concentration and drowsiness in the work period. You should prepare for the interview a day or two before the shadowing and try to get ample sleep the night before.
  • Keep something with you to eat in the duration. Keeping small snacks or beverages in your backpack is essential for new employees, interns or students. Since you do not have the freedom to visit the cafeteria anytime, you need to prepare snacks. If you do get hungry, you can quickly have a granola bar and resume working without being bothered by hunger.
  • Expect some obstacles and awkwardness in the beginning. Just because job shadowing is common doesn’t mean that it is easy. Since you will be in an unfamiliar location with unfamiliar people, you must expect some discomfort. But don’t worry, shadowing will help you slowly get over it and build better relations with the employees. It is merely an initial feeling which will fade with time.

Things to Keep in Mind While Shadowing

Now that we have seen how to prepare for shadowing, let’s move onto what to do when the day comes. While you might have done almost everything required the day before, there are a few other things you can do while shadowing to improve your experience. 

They aren’t necessary, but you could do them for better learning and understanding:

  1. Use ice-breakers to get familiar with your senior or fellow employees. Building interpersonal relation is a significant part of any work, and it is best to start as soon as you could. By introducing yourselves and getting familiar with your seniors, you will be more comfortable during the training period.
  1. Ask questions about things you do not understand. If you see a task that you do not understand or methods you are unfamiliar with, make sure to inquire about them. It is better to ask many questions than to have doubts about work in your mind. It might harm your performance later on too.
  1. Be polite and respect the senior’s personal space. Even though the idea of job shadowing is to follow an employee around and learn work from them, you need to draw a line between work and personal lives. Make sure to only ask professional questions and refrain from asking personal questions or making remarks. Getting friendly with your mentor is alright but only if they reciprocate the thought.
  1. Cut off any distractions like phones. It is crucial to have a learning environment without any distractions to facilitate optimum learning. You should keep your phone silent or powered off during job shadowing. Also, refrain from spending time on your phone as it causes a lot of distraction from work and is not polite.
  1. Make sure to thank your senior after the experience. Since your mentor will have done so much to help you get used to your work, they deserve a sincere thank you and praise. Let them know how much you appreciate their efforts and treat them warmly after the job shadowing has ended.


Job shadowing is a superior method for learning working methods and getting accustomed to newer work. Employees and students benefit from such shadowing by gaining experience and skills, and firms benefit by gaining skilled employees.

It is a win-win situation for both sides and leads to creating more efficient workers. With just a little preparation and background, you can also do job shadowing efficiently and contribute to your work.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What to expect during job shadowing?

Job shadowing mainly involves observing a senior employee, so you should be prepared to observe and record everything you learn through notes.

  1. How should I prepare for my job shadowing?

You should research your work and get ready to perform tasks, and take notes during the training.

  1. Is job shadowing necessary?

Job shadowing is a form of on-the-job training, so it is essential to learn about the work you will do.

What is Job Shadowing?- Definition

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