What is work shadowing and its role in shaping your career

In this article, I will explain what work shadowing is and how it can help you not only choose but also shape your career. Although, usually medical aspirants shadow, anyone who wishes to gain an insight into a profession can do it as well.


Deciding on what profession you want to take up can be daunting! You may be fresh out of school and wondering what a profession is like in the field. Perhaps, you already know what profession you want to pursue but would like a good insight into it before diving through. Here is a suggestion you might find helpful; shadow a professional. Work shadowing is following a professional from the start to the end of their work day to get a feel of their work life. You follow the professional like their shadow. You follow closely in their shadow; you become their shadow! It always helps to have an idea of what a profession demands. Shadowing helps to understand what a professional's day-to-day life entails. It gives you a peek into professional life and opens your eyes to the ins and outs, ups and downs, and the beauty and the nasty of the profession. This information will help you decide whether you want in or not. Medical aspirants usually shadow, although anyone can do it.

How to go about it?

So, how do you go about shadowing? First, make a list of people you would like to shadow. These could be people you look up to, for instance, someone you grew up knowing, like a family doctor, your dad's engineer friend, or your mom's baker friend. It could also be a well-known professional you have heard about from someone. Now, decide how you would approach them with the request to shadow. You can write them a letter, an email, give a call or meet them in person. If you get a chance to meet in person, it is still better to mention what the meeting is about through a phone call or an email. Email is a better option if the person you are considering is very busy. If a call doesn't go through, you can leave a voice message asking when you can call back. Be respectful and considerate no matter what approach you take. The request is the same- could I please shadow you to learn about the profession? Don't worry about rejection. Depending on their work schedules and other concerns in life, some people may not be able to accept your request. That is fine. Keep trying until you find one that works for you. If there is a conflict in time between the professional and you, try to free up your schedule to fit the professional's schedule. Let them know how long you would like to shadow and if they can accommodate that duration. As it may happen, if you can follow them only for a single day or a few days, take up the chance; you will learn something. Consider shadowing as many people as possible; you get to look at the profession through different lenses.

What is the best time to shadow?

You can shadow whenever. You can shadow after 10th grade or after 12th grade. Usually, in India, right after 10th grade, students must decide which subjects they want to focus on to prepare for the entrance test to get into a professional course. You can also shadow after your undergraduate degree to help you choose a specialty. Even if you are a professional already, you can shadow a senior to learn the tricks of the trade. You can shadow if you want to cross over to a new profession.

Happy shadowing!

Did you shadow anyone? Or did anyone shadow you? Do share in the comments below!

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Author: Umesh29 Jul 2022 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 7

Interesting article by the author. A very useful tool in the hands of a student who is planning to make a similar career as that of the person to whom he is shadowing.

Earlier we were getting motivated by our teachers and mentors who told everything about a profession and we dreamt about achieving that but we were not shadowing as we at that time did not have any idea about this technique. Whatever we learned was from the mentors and other seniors who shared their experiences with us. For example when I completed my UG in science then I was told by many of my teachers, seniors and relatives that I should go for PG in Physics as that subject had good potential for research as well as getting a job. I had no idea whether Physics was better or Mathematics or Chemistry, so I applied for Physics and as I was having good marks in UG, I got the admission easily but after completing my PG in Physics I did not know what to do except blindly applying for the jobs where PG in Physics was the eligibility. I joined a few jobs only to leave them as early as possible and finally settled in a technical job in a PSU. So the point is that only after doing my PG, I started thinking as what to do. I think shadowing could be much helpful in such scenario if I knew what it was at that point of time. I actually wanted to become a lecturer but I could not.

Anyway we can make some of our youngsters to understand the concept of shadowing for making a career in a particular line. It would definitely be helpful in some way to some extent.

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