Career Conversations/Job Shadowing

A career conversation is a chat with a person or people in a field of interest. It gives you an opportunity to find out more about what people do and how they got there. This may also involve a job shadow, where you observe or participate in their job tasks for a period of time. It’s a good idea to keep track of the contacts you make through career conversations and job shadows as they could be good contacts for you when you are searching for internships and jobs.

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Why conduct a career conversation or job shadow?

  • To increase your knowledge about your field(s) of interest.
  • To help you clarify your career path.
  • To add to your network of contacts that could lead to future opportunities.

How to get started

  1. Research positions and employers/organizations that fit your career interests.
  2. Identify individuals to reach out to who are knowledgeable about your targeted field, career, or organization. 
    • Ask everyone you know if they have contacts in your desired career field(s) (e.g., Career Center staff, other university staff, faculty, friends, coaches, alumni, employers at job fairs, family members). 
    • Attend professional association meetings in areas of interest to gain additional contacts. 
    • Use professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn or Handshake, and websites to expand your potential list of connections. 
  3. Additionally, check out employer websites for bios or videos of people in positions you may be interested in to learn more about these positions.
  4. Some fields, positions, or organizations could be more difficult than others to conduct career conversations or job shadows in. Consider seeking out volunteer positions or part-time jobs in that field or organization to gain information and connections.

Arrange the conversation or job shadow

  1. Call or email your potential career conversation/job shadow contact(s). Tell them you are interested in learning about their career(s) and would like to arrange an appointment to talk with them for 15-20 minutes. If you are looking to arrange a job shadow, it may last from a couple of hours to a full day.  
  2. If anyone you contact is not able to meet with you, ask for names of other people you could contact within the same field or organization and thank them for their time.

Prepare for and conduct the career conversation

  1. Research the organization and position by reviewing websites, LinkedIn or other social media sites, or any other materials.
  2. Prepare a list of questions (see suggestions below) to ask your contact. During the meeting, feel free to adapt or add new questions based on your conversation.
  3. Think about and plan what to wear; business casual is typically expected. Bring your list of questions and something to take notes on. You can also bring a copy of your resume to share with your contact if they ask to see it.
  4. Pay attention to and respect any time limits discussed, usually approximately 20 minutes, unless the person indicates a willingness to talk longer.

Possible questions to ask

  • What are your education and experience?
  • How did your education and experience prepare you for your position?
  • How did you become interested in this field/position?
  • How did you get started in the field?
  • What previous jobs have you had? (What did you enjoy most or least about them?)
  • How long have you been with the organization?
  • What do you like most (and least) about your work?
  • What qualities are most important for someone to succeed in the field?
  • What do you do during a typical workday?
  • What future do you see for the field or organization?
  • Are there any specific courses or experiences you might suggest to prepare for the field?
  • What advice do you have for someone wanting to enter the field?
  • What is the salary range for this type of position?
  • What benefits are there in addition to the salary?
  • What are the opportunities for advancement?
  • What are some related occupations?
  • What needs to be included in a strong resume and cover letter for this kind of position?
  • How do you stay current in your field?
  • What organizations and online groups do you recommend joining?
  • May I connect with you on LinkedIn?
  • Is there anyone else you suggest I talk with?

After the career conversation or job shadow

  1. Thank your contact during the meeting and follow up with a brief thank you note or email.
  2. Keep accurate and detailed records of each conversation or job shadow (including the name and title of the person you met with, contact information, date of interview, and your notes) for future reference.
  3. Continue to gather information in your field(s) of interest.