Where Knowledge and Character Matter ®

Job Shadowing

Job shadowing is a type of on-the-job employee job training in which a new employee, or an employee desiring to become familiar with a different job, follows and observes a trained and experienced employee.

To begin with, here are some of the reasons you should consider job shadowing:

  • It allows you to get an insight into the working life of the profession.
  • It allows you to get an insight into the employer and organisational culture.
  • It gives you a different perspective on your work by learning from others’ experiences.
  • It expands your network and helps you make professional contacts.
  • It gives you the chance to reflect on your own professional practice.
  • It informs you about the daily joys/struggles of the profession and its limitations.

Job shadowing may be your opportunity to try out a profession that you’ve always wanted to get into. Job shadowing isn’t just about learning but also equipping yourself with experiences that will stay with you forever. You also get to share your stories with your future undecided kids and better prepare them.

Working alongside an experienced employee can help you learn a lot about a job. Job shadowing allows you gain insight into an industry as well as develop within your current or expected role. But there’s more to it than that. Despite the fact that the main purpose of job shadowing is professional development, there are many other reasons why a student, graduate, or a current employee should engage in the practice.

Job shadowing allows a student, employee, or intern to gain comprehensive knowledge about what an employee who holds a particular job does every day. Job shadowing provides a far richer experience than reading a job description or doing an informational interview during which an employee describes their work.

Job shadowing is effective for any job in which the seeing is more graphic than the telling, or when the seeing is an important component of the learning. When job shadowing, the individual sees the actual performance of the job in action. But, in job shadowing, the participant also sees and experiences the nuances of how the service is provided or the job performed.

The participant experiences the employee’s approach, the interpersonal interaction required, the steps and actions necessary, and the components needed to effectively perform the job that the employee might never think to mention.

While all jobs can have a component of job shadowing as part of their training and employee development plan, job shadowing is especially effective for jobs such as these:

  • Restaurant employees: serving staff, bartenders, cooks, chefs, bus persons, cashiers, hosts.
  • Medical professions: physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, physicians, radiologists, surgeons.
  • Manufacturing jobs: supervisors, quality control, skilled trades employees, machine operators, tool and die makers, machinists.
  • Administration: receptionists, administrative assistants, secretaries, clerks.
  • Skilled Trades: carpenters, painters, woodworkers, electricians, plumbers, heating and cooling technicians.
  • Product development and go to market including computer programming, market research, marketing, sales, customer service, technical support, user experience testing, quality control.

These examples demonstrate the types of jobs in which learning by job shadowing is an essential component. But, learning in any job is enhanced by a component of job shadowing.


This web page was adapted from Career Addict's The Benefits of Job Shadowing web-page and the Balance Career's Job Shadowing Effective On-the-Job Training .