Originally Sent: 11/5/2014
November 6, 2014
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Job Shadowing: Opportunities to Ignite Future Careers
As you watch November leaves fall, we hope your homeschool is soaring! Take time this month to count your blessings as you rejoice in God’s love and bathe in His grace. You may need to make adjustments to your schedule as the year progresses, but take care not to overload your calendar. (We both made that mistake many times during our homeschooling days.)
As you make decisions for the rest of the school year, we’d like to suggest you consider job shadowing opportunities for your teens. Job shadowing especially helps teens who seem unmotivated and appear to flounder without definite future career options.
What Is Job Shadowing?
Job shadowing is a chance to explore a variety of careers as your teens spend time with and observe people in occupations of interest. By job shadowing, students gain information to determine if an occupation matches their skills, abilities, and disposition. Exposure to professionals with valuable skills, trained abilities, and subject knowledge helps teens connect the dots between finishing high school and completing certification training or planning to attend college.
Reasons to Consider Job Shadowing
Although some teens know early in life what careers interest them, other teens seem to be lost at sea and have no idea what future jobs they may like to pursue. Teens often feel inordinate pressure to make life choices without any definite direction. Job shadowing provides a chance to peek at various professions up close. In some instances, teens may have glamorized a particular job, so actually spending time with people on the job will reveal a more realistic picture of the career and its merits.
Consider the benefits of your teen viewing the corporate culture with its hierarchy or gaining insight into the workings of a small business with its flexibility. By experiencing typical work hours, watching how departments work together, and seeing diversity of management or leadership styles, your teen will have a much clearer picture of today’s work environment and job opportunities.
Teens who lack motivation for schoolwork often disassociate their studies from the workplace. Job shadowing allows students to connect study skills to job-related proficiencies that to date teens have not comprehended. We want students to understand how structuring priorities, organizing workspace, managing time, and acquiring knowledge are necessary components for the workforce. For example, a pharmacist must pay close attention to detail, have competent math skills, and have committed to memory vast amounts of scientific knowledge.
Although you may regularly remind your teens of the benefits of his studies, there’s nothing like seeing first hand a professional who actually uses these skills on a daily basis!
Before setting up job shadowing opportunities for your teen, you may want to first help your teen narrow down the possibilities. In Gene Edward Veith’s book, God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life, Veith lays out a biblical foundation to view work and the meaning of vocation.
Consider Veith’s point that the usual question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is not a helpful place to begin. Instead, he suggests parents engage teens in conversations to determine their strengths, gifts, and talents. He recommends guiding your teen to assess his God-given personality—what kind of person is your teen? For example, is he sociable? A team player? Does she prefer solitude and working on her own? Answering these types of questions can motivate teens to consider careers that correlate with their aptitudes and temperament.Next, consider giving your teen a career interest test because one of these tests can help your teen sort through many possibilities and refine his plans. There are many good tests from which to choose. Some career interest tests are surveys that may be taken online. Test answers generate a report enumerating suitable occupations. Two of the tests, The Call and Career Direct, are Christian-based. Several career tests offer the option of consulting with a career specialist. Because the ASVAB career interest test is free, many public schools offer it, so contact a participating public school in your area to ask if your teen can take it. Some ASVAB representatives are open to testing groups of homeschoolers, so check out this possibility.
Once your teen has narrowed down some areas to pursue with job shadowing, then assign him the task of researching these vocations. We recommend the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook website to collect information such as job description, work environment, required training/certification, potential earnings, and projected growth in the field. All of this information lays the ground work for your teen to then search out job shadowing opportunities in the field.
Creating a Job Shadowing Opportunity
Your teen can take the lead in setting up a job shadowing experience. Encourage him to network with parents of his friends, church members, neighbors, or relatives to find people in his field of interest. A personal connection with an employee/employer/business goes a long way towards nailing down a job shadowing experience. Some large corporations are very agreeable to having teens follow employees for the purpose of gaining vision and promoting interest in the business and/or product.
Prior to approaching someone with a request to job shadow, consider preparing a job shadowing proposal. because the proposal outlines what your teen hopes to accomplish and provides some suggested ideas how your teen will benefit from the experience.
Typically, the time frame for job shadowing may be few days, or perhaps several hours a day for a week. Remember that the purpose of job shadowing is not necessarily to hone skills but to watch employees and survey the work environment. In some cases, job shadowing may be the catalyst that provides a future part-time or summer job for your teen.
Job shadowing can be done anytime during the school year, but don’t rule out the summer months. Depending on your teen’s motivation, you may want to schedule one job shadowing experience each year of high school.
Examples of Job Shadowing
During the high school years, Diane’s daughter worked with a family friend to set up a job shadowing opportunity with a political non-profit organization. Her daughter job shadowed the director, and she gained an awareness of the types of projects the organization completed. She followed the director to meetings, saw how the director interacted with other departments, and was invited to attend informational seminars hosted by the organization. This experience later developed into a part-time job with this non-profit organization where her daughter gained valuable experience working in an office environment, writing press releases, and learning first hand about the political process.
If your teen is a budding journalist, encourage him to call a reporter at a local newspaper to set up a job shadowing experience where he could tag along to interviews, watch the research process, read the story drafts, or discuss the editing and revising steps should the editor suggest more research or a new direction for the article. What a great way to expose your teen to the necessity of writing and re-writing papers because few English teachers are as demanding as editors.
If your teen has his sights set on a trade, then encourage him to job shadow with a plumber, electrician, welder, carpenter, HVAC technician, horticulturist, florist, chef, or mechanic to see if this will ignite a passion! Your teen will soon have a new appreciation for the skills each job demands. Job shadowing may not only confirm a bent towards a particular occupation, but more significantly, it may also rule out certain careers. After several days of job shadowing, your teen may realize that a specific job is not what he would like to do the rest of his life! As a high school senior, Carol changed her career ambitions after job shadowing at a downtown bank. How much better to find this out after just a few days job shadowing before too much time and money have been misdirected or wasted.
As a more formal example of job shadowing, NASA regularly invites high school students to participate in internship/job shadowing opportunities. Often government agencies promote job shadowing opportunities, so check out similar opportunities in your area.
Consider job shadowing as a means to discover your teen’s gifts and interests, an opportunity to kindle inner motivation, an avenue to explore careers, and a way to relate coursework and study habits to future aspirations! We hope you will add this invaluable tool to your educational tool chest.
Join us next month as we encourage you to see God’s investment strategy—in you!
Thankful for each one of you and the investment you are making in your teen’s life,
Carol Becker and Diane Kummer
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