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Work Shadowing

The summer is here and unlike the utterly absurd amount of hours you have to spend in lectures theatres and seminar rooms, you have a free timetable. Woohoo! Free to do whatever you like – water slides, barbeques, trips to the park and city centre with all your friends – oh, all your friends have internships? And you don’t? To paraphrase the famous Apollo 13 mission, ‘Internships-less student, we have a problem!’

Don’t panic, you’re in the right place. We’re specialists (if we do say so ourselves) in careers advice so let us voice the possibility of work shadowing. Ahem! Before you drift toward the new tab or close button, let us have a minute to explain what it is and how it can benefit you.

What is Work Shadowing?

Work shadowing allows you to find out the day-to-day business of a specific job by ‘shadowing’ a person who does that job. It’s a great way to get a taste for a particular role you’ve been considering and if you shadow numerous people you can get a feel for how the same role is different depending on the circumstances. For example, a journalist who writes news reports will have a very different role to a journalist who reviews restaurants.

Work shadowing takes place over a few days, usually a week. It’s also (unfortunately) always unpaid, as you aren’t actually carrying out work that a ‘normal’ employee would. However, all experience is valuable experience, moving on nicely to…

What are the Benefits of Shadowing?

As touched upon, shadowing is a great way to get a feel for the career you want to follow, and opens your eyes to the different roles available. In short, you end your shadowing experience with an increased knowledge and a role and more understanding about the workplace. This is great, because knowledge is power, right?

It’s also a great opportunity to get advice from people who have been there and done that, as it were. On top of this, you can network with other people in the office or organisation, which is really useful when it comes to applying for jobs once you graduate.

Additionally, shadowing allows you to see how the theory of your course is put into practice. This is particularly useful if you’re a medical student – seeing how a doctor deals with a broken leg is much more beneficial than reading how to deal with a broken leg from a textbook.

What Opportunities are Available?

It’s very likely you’ll be able to shadow in most industries. As you can probably guess, there are some roles that may be prohibited, particularly in health and social care. Shadowing a brain surgeon, for example, is highly unlikely. Also, confidentiality may be an issue, along with safety.

Other than that, your options are endless! Get in touch with the companies you would be interested in working for, and ask them if you can shadow a member of staff. Opportunities may not be publicised, so it’s up to you to scout out opportunities. So get scouting!