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Article: Job Shadowing & Groundhog Job Shadow Day
by Ralph Manak, BaySCAN
A version of this article appeared in the North Bay Multimedia
Association's February, 2000 Multimedia Reporter
and in the February SofTECH Newsletter.

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School-to-Career: Job Shadowing & Groundhog Job Shadow Day

This is the fourth in a series of articles exploring ideas and practical applications in "school-to-career."

The "job shadow" brings a site visit to a more personal level, giving students an opportunity to interact with and learn from caring adults in a work environment. In contrast to a whole class touring your business, the job shadow allows individual or small groups of students to spend time "shadowing" someone-and it could be anyone from a receptionist to a member of a design team to the CEO of the company-to learn in-depth about the work day. The job shadow experience benefits everyone involved: students gain a much broader and deeper perspective on the workplace; employees learn more about and become more motivated by their own work, and the company develops stronger community relations while opening the door to a potential future employee.

A closer look at benefits to students reveals just how effective and far-reaching job shadowing can be. The job shadowing activity makes possible observation, one-on-one interactions, and occasional opportunities to try some of the work. Through this experience, students learn much more than what it's like to be "on the job." Students also learn about what it takes to get to the job, such as educational and professional requirements. Frequently, the job shadow opens students' eyes to career possibilities they had not been aware of. The job shadowing experience also has an impact on students' attitude and orientation towards school. An evaluation conducted by the Kravis Leadership Institute showed that students who have participated in job shadowing are more likely to believe they will graduate from high school and obtain a college degree. They are also one-third more likely to seek part-time employment (under 20 hours per week) while still in high school.

While job shadowing can take place at any time, Groundhog Job Shadow Day is an opportunity to build business-school partnerships in conjunction with a high-profile, event. The goal of National Groundhog Job Shadow Day (Feb. 2) is to provide one million students with job shadowing experiences. California is seeking at least 40,000 job shadow placements. In Marin and Sonoma Counties, the School-to-Career Partnerships are working to provide job shadow experiences for middle and high school students in a range of industries across the month of February. For more information on Groundhog Job Shadow Day, see the Web site (URL below); to get involved, contact your local STC partnership (contact info below). Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you prepare to host a job shadow:

Before the job shadow:
Orient participants. Provide students with your company's press kit, or select elements from it that will them adequate background information. If possible, provide a brief bio or resume of the person the student will shadow. Employees should be aware that the goal of the activity is for students to observe actual work-the employee does not have to entertain the student. The company or the employee can structure the job shadow to include periodic discussion sessions to talk about what is happening and to respond to the student's questions or ideas.

During the job shadow:
Introductory meeting. When the student arrives, convene a brief meeting to introduce the student to the company, to respond to any initial questions the student may have, and to set goals for the job shadow. If possible, introduce the student to representatives from throughout the company to create a sense of the organization and relationships needed to get the work done. This has greater impact than showing them the org chart.

The job shadow. The actual time and structure of the job shadow can vary. Some students will spend the day with one person. Others may rotate through departments during the course of the day. While the student can just observe, a combination of observation and participation can be more effective-increasing interaction will increase learning. For example, asking the student's opinion about something engages them in the process while also helping to build rapport between the student and the adult.

A context for contacts. A goal of the job shadow is to help the student develop professional contacts. Provide business cards. Introduce students to other people at the worksite, clients, vendors, etc. This helps students to recognize the range of career opportunities available. The stories of how people at the company got where they are today will be instructive.

After the job shadow:
Next steps. Since the job shadow is an opportunity for students and adults to connect, it makes sense to follow up after the event. The students will send you a thank-you note, which may include their reflections and insights from the visit; send them a brief note that describes what you learned from them. The job shadow also creates an opportunity to get to know a student well enough to consider mentoring or offering the student an internship, or otherwise extending the partnership with the school.

Next Month: Mentoring

Related Links: National Groundhog Job Shadow Home Page:
All articles in this series are available at:

It takes employers, students, and teachers working together to build an effective STC system. The local STC partnerships have the tools to help employers get started; please contact them for more information. If you have your own ideas for getting involved, please contact Ralph Manak at the Bay Area School-to-Career Action Network (BaySCAN).

Ken Lippi, Marin County STC Partnership
   415-499-5865 |
Helen Ramstad, Sonoma County STC Partnership
   707-524-2851 |
Ralph Manak, BaySCAN Multimedia Network
   415-507-6233 |