Are you unsure what career path to pursue or contemplating a career change? Job shadowing can help.
When you leave active duty and return to civilian life, one of the most challenging aspects of your transition can be finding a career path that is best suited to you. When you are deciding on a career path, or if you are nearing graduation and still unsure about your next step, job shadowing may be the answer to help you make some tough decisions.
What is job shadowing?
Job shadowing, by definition, is a popular technique that allows one to “shadow” an employee for a day, a week or for a specified amount of time. Job shadowing allows a person to see a particular profession firsthand. It also allows a person the chance to learn aspects related to a particular industry, and most importantly, allows a person to understand the ins and outs of that particular role without the responsibility or commitment. Once you commit as an employee, that brings responsibility and pressure. Job shadowing takes away that pressure and allows the chance to learn, to ask, to gauge and to decide.
Why is job shadowing important, particularly with veterans?
William Ryan and Tom Forhan, veterans representatives at Workforce Central Career Center in Worcester, Mass., offered their insight on why job shadowing, particularly with veterans, is so important. Workforce Central Career Center provides employment and training services for both job seekers and employers. Forhan states that “shadowing is so important for vets who have not worked in the civilian sector in many years; so many things are different than military. What may have been acceptable or non-acceptable in the military may not be in the civilian sector.”
What are some good questions to ask or to consider while job shadowing?
Ryan and Forhan suggest veterans ask probing, open-ended questions while job shadowing, such as, “Why is it being done that way?” They should also offer to attempt tasks on the job while current employees and supervisors shadow them.
What is the best way to follow up after you have job shadowed with a particular company?
They note the best way to follow up after job shadowing is with open and honest contact, and to express gratitude for the opportunity.
Other tips to keep in mind when job shadowing:
Ryan and Forhan offer these important tips and tricks to bear in mind while you are job shadowing:
- Observe all surrounding interactions. Know some people will want you to fail and will not always have your back.
- Note that the chain of command is not always clearly defined visible or clear.
- Advancement is normally based on achievements, not experience, titles or education.
- Search out other veterans on staff [including] both formal/informal mentors.
- Watch your language!
- Do not be afraid to take on responsibility.
Changing careers or transitioning to the private job sector can be challenging, but job shadowing is an important tool that can eliminate some of the anxiety and worry around the question, “Is this job right for me?” With these tips, you will be in good shape to get out there and job shadow!