How Job Shadowing Can Contribute to Your Career Growth

Even if you are 100 percent satisfied with your current position, consider job shadowing as a way to contribute to your career growth. If you are looking over the job fence to see whether the grass is greener, job shadowing is a risk-free way to learn about other career paths.

Job shadowing

Job shadowing—following another employee who has a different role—is an excellent way to add to your skills and check out other potential niches for your talent. You also show management you are interested in growth and prepared for your next position at your current company or another company.

Shadowing keeps you engaged

Feeling bored at work? Look for someone with an interesting job and ask to shadow them. Being thrown into a new environment with new challenges can be the equivalent of that first cup of coffee in the morning.

Watching someone else navigate tough situations or even normal issues different from what you face every day can give your ideas on how to troubleshoot problems back at your own desk.

Shadowing opens your eyes to new job possibilities

One DMV financial institution manager came to her current job without much experience in lending. She asked to shadow in the lending department for few days. She gained a deeper understanding of another aspect of operations, enough to know whether she would ever like to work in lending herself—without risking a career move.

She gets along even better with her colleagues because she understands and appreciates what they are going through.

Management will take note

Thanks to her new expertise,  she was able to volunteer to pitch in on the lending side when the institution was swamped this spring with PPP loan requests—another way to impress management. Her bosses respected that she was interested in learning more and adding to her skills.

New skills open new career options

An entry level newspaper reporter spent a few hours shadowing a desk editor, learning how to pick state and national news stories to print and how to manage emergencies such as a missing weather forecast. (In case you are wondering, you can’t lose in the South with a summer forecast of high in the upper 80s, low in the low 70s, 30 percent chance of rain).

The initial result was being asked to fill in on occasional weekends. The reporter developed better relationships with all the editors at the newspaper. Long-term, the reporter opened a new career path into editing.

How to ask

If you are interested in job shadowing, first ask the person whose job you would like to shadow—your job shadowee. Tell them why you think their job is worth learning about. Ask them how many days would be best. Plan how your own work will get done while you are shadowing.

Next, ask your boss. Tell your supervisor why you want to shadow, how you expect to benefit and how the company will benefit. Explain your plan for getting your own work done. If that plan includes working a little extra, make it clear that you’re game to stay late on your own dime to finish your own tasks.

Don’t do this while shadowing

Just like a shadow, you are there to be seen but not heard. Unless your shadowee asks for advice, keep your opinions to yourself. Don’t do anything that makes it appear you are angling for your shadowee’s job.

Do this while shadowing

Know before you go: research your shadowee’s job before you start shadowing. Carry a small notebook or take notes on your phone. Use your phone or notebook to list questions to ask as soon as you get one-on-one time.

Plan on treating your shadowee to lunch each day to say thank you. Then, follow up with a handwritten thank-you note or an email that outlines what you learned and how much you appreciate the opportunity. Then, send a similar note or email to your boss thanking him or her for allowing you time away from your regular duties. If someone filled in for you on your normal responsibilities, send them a thank-you note or email too while you’re at it.

Be open to learning the unexpected

Finally, be open to learning new approaches, new skills and a potential new job path. Realize, too, you may learn the grass is actually greener in your own cubicle.

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