Summer is here and countless high school and college students are looking for ways to make it productive. Many students are asking, “What can I do this summer that will be impressive on my college application?” or “How can I gain real-world experience?”
If you can afford to spend some 9 to 5 hours investing in something unpaid, job shadowing can be a great way to create an experience that will supercharge your college application or resume.
What Is Job Shadowing?
Job shadowing is on-the-job learning. Students “shadow” a professional in their intended field of study, or a career they wish to explore further. It’s a great way to get hands-on experience in your industry of interest.
Not only will job shadowing create a worthwhile summer, but it also looks amazing on college applications. It shows colleges that you are not just saying you want to be an architect or doctor or engineer, but that you took the initiative to explore this interest further. If you’re already in college, potential employers will be impressed with your ambition and resourcefulness.
Tap Into Your Network
Many students and parents wrongly believe that job shadowing is difficult to come by. Many times, students approach this the wrong way. The best opportunities will not be found on Indeed or a job board; they are created.
Imagine you aspire to be a physician, for example. Contact your family doctor or pediatrician. Explain to her that you are an eager student who aims to one day be a doctor, and that you’d like to spend some time learning from her experience.
Emphasize that job shadowing won’t be a one-way street. Describe the value you intend to add to her practice. For instance, many high school and college students are strong at social media. Value could be added to a private practice through social media marketing or by training a current employee how to use various social media channels. Another idea is to help improve the patient experience. Conduct patient surveys and create detailed action plans based on the results. Remember, job shadowing should be mutually beneficial.
In any case, start with the people you know, such as family friends, neighbors, and work contacts. You would be surprised how resourceful your inner circle is and just how far a referral goes.
The Missing Link
When approaching job-shadowing opportunities outside your personal network, LinkedIn is key. Think of LinkedIn as an online portfolio. Instead of emailing a boring resume, include your LinkedIn profile.
A LinkedIn page is more personal than a resume. View it as making your one-page resume come to life and highlighting who you are as an individual. Do you play the piano? Why not post a video of one of your performances? Are you a soccer player? Post a video of your winning goal. Take your time and make your LinkedIn page personal, and highlight your goals, accomplishments, and why a university or employer would be happy to have you.
Creating a LinkedIn page is a task that needs to be nurtured — a constant work-in-progress — and summer is a great time for students to build up their profile. Make connections, get endorsements, and ask for recommendations. This way, when you approach job-shadowing or internship opportunities, the employer can learn more about you and your leadership skills through your LinkedIn profile.
Once you obtain that coveted job-shadowing opportunity, stay in touch with colleagues through LinkedIn. Nurture those relationships. One opportunity often leads to the next.
Perseverance is key when seeking a job-shadowing opportunity. If the first person you contact tells you no, keep calling other prospects. Hands-on learning experiences are out there for ambitious students, but it often takes diligence and persistence to obtain them.
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