When you transition from the military, keep your eyes and ears open for job shadowing opportunities. Experiencing a workplace first-hand enables you to learn much more about a career than performing extensive internet research. It is an awesome experience for a transitioning service member; assuming you can find an opportunity. It is not easy, so let’s take a look at few thoughts on how to land a shadowing opportunity.
Who to shadow?
Ideally, you will find someone who is in the same type of job you think you would like to have or a position that you desire to obtain in the near future.
Job shadowing is a tremendous opportunity for you to observe or “shadow” someone doing their job, in their workplace environment. A job shadow can be as simple as an hour-long visit with one person. Or, if you are very fortunate, you may be able to land a week-long experience where you can interact with numerous staff members and observe a variety of activities. Perhaps you can see how different departments behave and interact with each other.
Where to find a job shadow?
Find a company, organization or profession you think you would like to pursue. Again, this takes some personal reflection and study. Target places and organizations you would like to be.
Ideally, you will want to find a job shadow prior to your departure from the service. However, you may not be able to find an opportunity until after you have departed. Further, you may find that you have already obtained a job after the military, but you are disenchanted. A job shadow may help you consider a new career path.
You learn much more about a company through experiencing them in the trenches. If you already know the career field you want to pursue, job-shadowing can reveal inside information about the company culture, atmosphere and attire. Further, you can narrow your search to the department level by shadowing people or observing different departments of the same company to see various environments. Further, don’t underestimate the networking opportunity.
How to find a job shadow?
Finding an opportunity can be tough. Before you try setting up a job-shadowing experience on your own, look into resources in your area for this kind of activity. Check into local or state government agencies which offer such programs. Sometimes companies offer job-shadowing programs. Some military transition assistance programs help find shadowing opportunities.
If you cannot locate an opportunity using these methods, find someone in “career development” in an organization or profession you think you would like to pursue. Ask for an informational interview, where you might come to an organization to learn more about the company and its processes. Request information on their referral process and if job shadowing opportunities exist. Explain why job shadowing interests you and request their procedures for entering into such a program.
If you get to an informational interview and you hit it off with the interviewer, you might ask if you can come back to spend some more time with your interviewee in a job-shadowing situation.
If you get the opportunity to job shadow, a nice touch would be to invite your professional out to lunch on the day of shadowing. Ask questions, but don’t bombard the professional with too many. Be open to meeting as many people as possible during the experience. Ask them if they know others in similar jobs that you might shadow. Many have veterans as co-workers who would be willing to assist.
Treated well, the professional you are shadowing may become a valuable member of your civilian network. Remember that they have made a significant investment by spending time with you, so stay in touch with them and make sure you send them a thank you note.
Very few get to experience a job shadowing opportunity. You can increase your chances through proactive networking for opportunities. The time spent shadowing is invaluable and well worth your investment.
Wishing you a lucrative transition!