Benefits of Job Shadowing In The Workplace

Curious about the benefits of job shadowing in the workplace? It’s a time consuming process that has absolutely no downsides. Here’s why.

Determining your career interests, especially as someone in the beginning stages of their career, can be an intimidating process. That’s where job shadowing comes in.

According to the Human Resources Gartner Glossary, job shadowing is “a type of on-the-job training that allows an interested employee to follow and closely observe another employee performing the role.”

What is job shadowing?

Job shadowing is a process of learning where an individual observes and learns from someone in a specific profession or industry by following them around in their workplace or during their daily work activities.

During job shadowing, the observer or shadow learns about the job responsibilities, tasks, and expectations of the person they are shadowing.

It is a great way to gain a first-hand experience of a particular profession or job and learn about the skills, knowledge, and qualifications required for it.

Job shadowing is often used as a tool for career exploration, professional development, and networking.

There are many benefits of job shadowing; here are just a few of them.

5 Benefits of Job Shadowing In The Workplace

1. Allows You to Observe What the Culture and Environment Are Like

When I was deciding on which middle school to attend more than a decade ago, I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to shadow students at both of the middle schools I was considering for one day.

This gave me the chance to see what the environment of the school was like, and observe how other students interacted with each other.

I was lucky enough to be offered the same opportunity to shadow students while I was in the midst of the college application decision process.

In both instances, the time I spent shadowing students were key in assisting me to make decisions about my academic career.

While you will not be assessing the environment of a middle school, shadowing will give you the opportunity to observe the existing culture and determine if you feel comfortable in that setting.

You can get a deeper look at a career choice and find clarity to these questions:

  • Can you see yourself going to work every day in that environment?
  • Is there anything that you would consider a red flag?
  • Is the environment a good fit in this specific career?
  • What would be be like to work that particular job as a new employee?
  • Does the day-to-do match the job description?
  • What types of job or work experience would help you thrive?
  • If this a carer choice you’re interested in pursuing?
  • What new skills would you need to acquire?
  • Would this culture aid in your career development?
  • What specific activities do they do every day?
  • How would you sump up the ins and outs of a job?
  • What practical skills do you need to thrive?
  • What are the career advancement opportunities?

While these three are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself, it’s important to note that job shadowing is a way to determine the answers to these questions for yourself.

The job shadowing experience is one the best ways to get deeper insight into a potential future career in a particular field.

2. Allows You to Network

This one might be obvious, but job shadowing is also a great way to network. And we all know the power of networking.

Shadowing someone while they are on the job gives you the opportunity to meet more people.

Those people might prove to be invaluable connections down the line, especially if you end up pursuing a job at that company.

Meeting people in different roles can also be a great jumping off point for an informational interview.

And if you do end up interviewing at the company you job shadow at, it can help that they will likely remember you in the interview process.

This is you chance to give a good impression to staff members for a potential new role.

People at the company will most likely remember you if you shadowed them; I know that the people who I shadowed when I was in middle school remembered me when I ultimately showed up in class in September.

It meant that I already knew someone there, which was an immense comfort to me amidst the typical first day jitters. 

3. Allows You to Observe What is Required of a Position (And Observe What That Person Does!)

I was lucky enough that my employer brought on a Communications intern last summer.

One of my responsibilities included allowing them to watch me work.

This allowed them to understand the workflow and subsequently, it allowed me to delegate responsibilities to them when they were available and willing.

This shadowing occurred entirely virtually. I recall that they asked a lot of questions about my process (and took lots of notes). 

Shadowing allows you to learn what someone in a certain position does and how responsibilities are divided amongst a team within the organization.

The job shadow experience also shows you more insight into how a job role interacts with different departments to see how the company works together.

While you are not required to take notes or ask questions in the way that this individual did, I recommend that you do. 

Shadowing also gives you the opportunity to observe meetings. How are they conducted? What sorts of topics are discussed? 

Shadowing and observing an employee’s daily work flow gives you the opportunity to observe what skills the employees at the company uses and how you measure up against them.

You’ll be able to see what skills you have, how to improve them, and what skills you need to develop in order to remain competitive in the field.

Use this opportunity to ask questions to determine if this is the right field for you.

Having the answers to these questions will be crucial in determining if the field (or the company) is the right fit for you.

4. Allows You to Learn More About the Industry in Question 

I remember inviting that same summer intern to a few meetings after I learned of their interest in a marketing career.

Shadowing also gives you a feel for what the workflow is like over different seasons within an organization, especially if you are in a position to observe the organization for more than a couple of months.

Whether you are currently employed in a different job or are looking for a specific job or for a different type of job, getting some hands-on experience through job shadowing can help you learn more about company culture and a deeper look into the role of a certain industry you might be interested in.

Getting a better understanding like this can help you clarify if a particular role or industry is right for you.

5. You’ll Be Considered for Positions if they Do Open Up

Let me be clear before you get too excited; there is no guarantee that this will happen.

With that said though, it is likely that if you do end up applying for a position at the company where you shadowed, you could use the knowledge you gained at the company to make a strong application, which could push you to the top of the pile.

The chances increase if you make the effort to stay in touch, even after a period of time, and took the time to introduce yourself while you are on site.

In my experience, companies are not unaware of the fact that having someone take the time to shadow one of their employees is a time-consuming process.

Companies will remember you if you display drive, interest, and professionalism during your time with them. You never know when that will work to your advantage down the line.

blonde and a brunette woman talking about work

In Summary Benefits of Job Shadowing in the Workplace

Job shadowing is often used as a training tool.

While it is common to shadow someone in-person, that doesn’t mean that virtual job shadowing is off the table, especially with so many companies in both virtual or hybrid workflows.

Ask around for opportunities if you’re interested. As many people say, many of the opportunities are not always advertised. 

Good luck with your job shadow experience! Regardless of where you do it, make sure to take a lot of notes and connect with as many people as you can.

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About the Author

Alisa Tanaka

Alisa Tanaka graduated with a Communications degree from Lewis & Clark College in 2012. She hopes to develop a career that allows her to make a measurable impact on the world while doing something that she loves. Her interests include psychology, linguistics, and mental health. She can also be found reading, watching documentaries, and writing her blog.