If an internship or co-op is not something you are able to pursue at the present time, but you want to have a career-related experience, there are other ways to get informal, short-term career related experiences. If you only have an hour or two a week, these are some ways to also build your professional skills and network.
Job Shadowing is what it sounds like – you "shadow" a professional while they are on the job for a few hours to a whole day or a few days. Job shadowing allows you to gain a basic understanding of a job and the organization being shadowed. A benefit is that you can participate in as few or as many shadowing experiences as you have time for and with as many professionals and organizations as will allow you access. Utilizing your network, you can identify professionals to shadow in different types of jobs in your career field and major.
While shadowing, you might have the opportunity to view many job related tasks, duties, meetings, and daily interaction with colleagues, clients or supervisees. Talking with and asking questions of the professional about his/her job duties and the career path he/she took to his/her current position, would be great conversation points for wrapping up the shadowing experience. Some examples:
- A Finance major may spend two to three hours with a financial advisor, observing his tasks, duties and daily interaction with colleagues and clients.
- A Psychology major may spend time at a counseling center or a medical setting.
- An English major may spend time at a public relations firm, a company that produces publications, or any organization where writing skills are in demand.
- A Biology major may shadow at a state park, zoo or industry leader in biotechnology.
If you are having trouble identifying potential job shadowing experiences for your major or career path, then call or come by to schedule an appointment with a career counselor at the WKU Career Services Center, 270-745-3095, DUC Annex A-230, email@example.com.
Informational Interviews are similar to job shadowing in that they provide you with an opportunity to meet with a career professional, but they are designed specifically to give you an opportunity to ask questions related to the professional's position and career path, and not to allow you to observe them in their daily roles and tasks. When requesting an informational interview with a professional in your field, be sure to respect their time, and do not go beyond the time (or purpose) you requested for the interview.
Questions that you might consider asking (not a comprehensive list, but a starting point as you research and plan your own questions to ask):
- What is your title and main role?
- What sort of education does the person in your position normally have or does this type of position typically require?
- What positions have you held or what career path have you followed to get where you are presently?
- What are the most satisfying aspects of the work?
- What are the greatest pressures, strains or anxieties in the work?
- What are the major job responsibilities?
- What are the toughest problems and decisions with which you must cope?
- What are the most dissatisfying aspects of the work? Is this typical of the field?
- How would you describe the atmosphere/culture of the business?
- Can you think of other important questions that I should be asking to help me learn about the job or occupation?
- Can you suggest others who I might talk to in the field who may be valuable sources of information?