It’s a win-win for both you and your shadow. But the key to transforming a job shadow experience from a good experience to an amazing one?
Preparation. (And a little structure.)
As effortless as being job shadow host may seem, it’s a big (and honorable!) commitment to take someone under your wing for the day and show them the ropes. Your shadower has invested their own time and resources to spend the day with you too, so it’s important to make them feel welcome and put your best foot forward to ensure a valuable experience.
Whether it’s your first time hosting, or you’re a veteran looking to go even more pro, here are our favorite tips for job shadow hosts.
Reach out to your shadower. Kicking off with an introductory email or phone call is a great way to establish some familiarity before the shadow day. You can get to know your shadower and ask what specifically he or she is hoping to get out of the shadowing experience. This initial conversation can give you ideas on how to structure your time with your shadower.
Share the practical (and comforting) details upfront. Remember what your first day on the job was like! Let your shadower know in advance important details like dress code, transportation and parking options, and what they should bring with them, like a laptop, lunch, or other supplies. If you work in a big building or campus, let your shadower know where to meet you and at what time.
Start with the basics. When you first meet your shadower, start off with an introduction to yourself, including your professional background, interests, and how you came to your current role.
Give an office tour. Show them around your workplace—this allows your shadower to get a sense of the office flow, and orients them to key places like your office/desk, bathrooms, the kitchen, and meeting rooms.
Incorporate both structured and unstructured time. Having your shadower accompany you to back-to-back meetings and projects may seem exciting, but it can be a bit of a whirlwind! Try for a balance: a couple conferences so they can see you in action with your co-workers, and also some one-on-one time for direct conversation and Q&A.
Invite your colleagues to participate. Your shadower might find it valuable to speak with others at your company to learn more about the culture, industry, and other intriguing roles. Consider setting up a rotation with 2-3 other co-workers who would be willing to do a 15-minute Q&A or demonstration. Including your colleagues can also help relieve the pressure on you—if you have to step away unexpectedly, your shadower is in good hands.
Put your shadower to work. Engage your shadower with a small, independent hands-on task. This gives them a taste of your role and can lead to more thoughtful and in-depth conversations.
Debrief and connect at the end of the day. By the end of the day, your shadower will have observed so much! New insights and questions will likely pop up, so make sure there’s time at the end to debrief and address any final thoughts. Be sure to also follow up with any information, materials, or introductions you weren’t able to get to earlier.
Be real! Let your shadower see a range of tasks that you normally do, and be transparent about all aspects—highs and lows—of your job. With median tenure for workers age 25-34 at just 2.8 years, transparency is more important than ever to help professionals find the right job fit. Your shadower will appreciate the honesty, and it will help you and your organization connect with invested, long-term talent.
Aim for dialogue and exchange. When you’re hosting, it can be easy to fall into “presentation mode” and feel like you have to do all the talking and explaining. The most fruitful job shadow experiences happen when you let the conversation flow. Your shadower is naturally curious to learn more about your role, but take time to get to know them and their experience, too. You may learn from their unique perspective, and your dialogue will help you further tailor the day.
Keep in mind why your shadower is here. There are a number of reasons that brought your shadower to this experience with you. Maybe they are in the midst of a job hunt, or perhaps they are simply looking to explore a side passion. No matter the reason, you are helping your shadower learn new things and make important life decisions. Tune in to your shadower’s particular path, and help them address what’s next.
All right. You are well-prepared for your day as a job shadow host. Enjoy your time with your shadower and let your personality and genuine passion for your work shine through.