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Virtual Job Shadow: How to Grow Your Career by Job Shadowing Online

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Are you looking for invaluable insight into a potential career? Want to know what it’s ‘really like’ behind the scenes of a professional? Virtual job shadowing does just that.


Virtual job shadowing, a fairly new concept, is becoming a standard practice. It is a virtual experience for job seekers to observe and learn from professionals in their desired fields.


This experience illuminates details within specific jobs or industries, allowing careerists to learn about the daily tasks and responsibilities and understand the necessary skills and qualifications required for the job.


Traditional job shadowing involves physically following a professional, whereas virtual job shadowing can be done almost anywhere. Since COVID, hybrid and remote work options have exploded in popularity, making virtual job shadowing an easy and practical choice.


If you’re looking for an insider view of a professional in your desired field, you can now do so from home, eliminating the need for travel and reducing costs.


Virtual job shadowing is a great way to explore different career paths and pick up significant insights into a specific industry or profession. It provides potential interns, college grads, and opportunists with an ‘over-the-shoulder’ view of what it takes to succeed in a particular job or career. It helps them make informed decisions about their professional goals.


The growth of virtual job shadowing demands that more organizations offer this experience to potential employees. This pressure is making it more accessible than ever before.


Understanding Virtual Job Shadowing


Definition and Evolution


Virtual job shadowing is a relatively new way to explore potential career paths and industries without going to the office. This online experience allows students, interns, and job seekers to observe professionals’ day-to-day work requirements and environments.


Though remote work and home office were already a thing, COVID-19 forced creativity for employers and employees alike. The pandemic exposed many possibilities for adapting from some of the traditional work models. Virtual job shadowing has become a new benefit of this phenomenon.


Virtual job shadowing continues to grow with technologies and platforms as they develop to provide more immersive and engaging experiences.


Some virtual job shadowing experiences include interactive videos, virtual tours, and even live Q&A sessions with professionals. These experiences help shadowers better understand what a particular job entails, the required skills, and the company’s work culture.


The Benefits of Virtual Job Shadowing


Virtual job shadowing is a low-risk opportunity to explore different career paths and industries without committing to a specific job or a drawn-out internship.


The experience helps candidates visualize their strengths, weaknesses, and interests, which will weigh heavily on their career decisions. It also generates opportunities to build professional networks and connects them with industry professionals.


Virtual Job Shadowing Versus an Internship


Virtual job shadowing differs from an internship in several ways.

  • Responsibility: Virtual job shadowing does not have specific duties, as it is primarily observational. An internship demands hands-on activity.
  • Time: Virtual job shadowing typically lasts one day to a week, while an internship can last weeks or even months.
  • Objective: Virtual job shadowing gives a glimpse into a profession or field, whereas an internship can be a long-term, limited experience in a specific role.


Virtual Job Shadowing Versus In-Person Job Shadowing


In-person job shadowing requires a physical presence to observe professionals in their work environment. With that comes additional time for preparation and travel, not to mention a limited view of a single role and extended responsibilities, as mentioned above.


While in-person job shadowing may provide a more concrete experience, finding and arranging an in-person experience can be more challenging due to scheduling and other logistics. Virtual job shadowing is a more flexible alternative and allows participants to observe professionals from the comfort of their homes or anywhere else with a Wi-Fi connection.


How to Virtual Job Shadow


Virtual job shadowing gives valuable insight into a profession and helps job seekers make informed, better career choices. Making the most of the experience is essential to maximize this relatively easy and profitable time.


Finding Virtual Job Shadowing Opportunities


Finding opportunities to job shadow virtually is the first step. Five of the best places to find virtual job shadowing opportunities are:


  1. Job boards like Lensa cover most industries and experience levels.
  2. Social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook connect you with professionals in your field. 
  3. Company websites not only show current openings but additional opportunities as well. 
  4. Industry-specific websites introduce you to leaders in the field to whom you can reach out.
  5. University placement offices are also a great place to find opportunities.


After finding an interesting virtual job shadowing opportunity, it is best to research the company and the specific professional you’ll be shadowing. The research and knowledge will position you for a more complete experience and let you ask better questions.


Preparing for a Virtual Job Shadow


Prepare for virtual job shadowing in almost the same way you would for an in-person job shadow experience. Think about what you want to get from the experience and write out the questions you’d like to ask.


Dress professionally and clear your workspace from all distractions.


Make sure your technology is on point as well. It may seem obvious, but double-checking everything before you begin will ease your mind. Ensure your laptop is fully charged or plugged in, the internet connection is stable, and your webcam, mic, speakers, or headphones are all in top working condition.


Maximizing the Experience


It’s essential to be present and engaged during virtual job shadowing. You should take notes and ask questions when appropriate.


You should also respect the professional’s time and follow their lead.


After you’ve finished virtual job shadowing, take some time to reflect on and process your experience. Also, thank the professional for their time to give you this opportunity; after all, they could soon be your colleague.


How Virtual Job Shadowing Impacts Career Development


Technology affords so many new opportunities, and virtual job shadowing is one of them. This opportunity will expose you to a new level of your future career.


There are two primary ways to generate a virtual job shadowing experience, and you’ll need to arrange the details with the professional you’ll be shadowing. It may include any or all of the following:


  • Live Method: You may be watching through screen-sharing or video conferencing technology. You may or may not be able to interact in real-time with the professional you are shadowing. This will depend on the professional and the industry in which you are interested. You should be sure to schedule time for a Q&A session after the shadow experience.
  • Pre-recorded Method: This option allows you to shadow at your most convenient time. It may not give you the depth of the live version, as it may not represent an everyday experience, but it can still provide great insight into particular tasks within a profession. This is a great option to explore your interests within a specific industry.


Skill Development Through Observation

Virtual job shadowing allows individuals to develop skills through observation.

Watching professionals in action shows the day-to-day responsibilities of the role and the role within the company culture. Observers can see the skills required for the job, such as communication, problem-solving, and time management.


This will help identify areas to improve and develop to advance your career.


Building Professional Relationships


Building a network of professionals is another advantage provided by virtual job shadowing. Connecting with others in your field will prove invaluable.


This network will expose you to the latest trends and developments in the field. It can also build a network of contacts for future career opportunities.


Influence on Career Choices


The insight provided by virtual job shadowing can also significantly influence career choices. Observing professionals in various roles and industries proffers a better understanding of career interests.


Seeing the required skills and qualifications in action will show exactly how well you can adapt to a new role and whether the career step is best for you.


Ultimately, virtual job shadowing remains a new tool, but one holding intrinsic value. It offers a ‘hands-off’ experience to watch a ‘hands-on’ professional and allows for communication with the professional within a limited-risk environment.
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Team Lensa
Team Lensa is a group of HR specialists, career counselors, and tech enthusiasts dedicated to helping job seekers navigate the employment landscape through actionable tips and insights.

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