Contributed by Colin Faunt ’17
When it came to internships, I had no idea where to start. Yet after talking with other students and recent graduates, I discovered that job shadowing is an excellent way to look for future employment. In order to get started, I needed to narrow down a goal. Personally, it was important to expand my network in the local area, since I would love to intern from home. I also wanted to experience different companies that offer careers in the field I am interested in going into once I graduate.
Whitman has excellent alumni resources that allow students to easily develop connections with alumni in their interest areas. Whitman’s university page on LinkedIn is a very useful and intuitive tool to find alumni. The LinkedIn page allows you to sort through the alumni listed based on your priorities. For instance, I can easily navigate through all the alumni to find people who are working in engineering in the Portland area. The only downfall to the LinkedIn page lies in the fact that little contact information is given. Luckily, Whitman has its own online database of alumni called Whitman Connect. This database includes preferred contact information, clubs and activities they participated in while attending Whitman, and whether or not they would like to be contacted by students. These two online tools foster numerous opportunities for connections.
Aside from the online resources, in my opinion the fastest way to make connections and search for a job shadow or internship is in-person networking. The Student Engagement Center and Alumni Relations Office hold numerous networking events in major cities during breaks. I attended a Whitties Helping Whitties networking event during winter break resulting in a job shadow later that week. Prior to this event, I figured asking for a job shadow or internship would be a difficult question to ask; however, it turned out to be rather simple. After talking with many alumni, I met somebody who worked in my field of interest. Intrigued, I continued talking with him, then asked “I’m interested in learning more about your job and your company, would you be interested in letting me job shadow sometime next week?” He gave me his card and told me to contact him to set a date. Though daunting at first, networking is a wonderful tool to explore opportunities.
The day after the networking event, I sent him an email that looked something like this:
My name is Collin, we met last night at the Whitman networking event. To refresh your memory, I’m currently studying physics at Whitman. I’m in the process of looking for an internship this summer in the field of engineering.
You mentioned last night you would be willing to let me visit your workplace and possibly shadow you for an hour or two. I would love to see what you do and be exposed to more possible careers. Is that something you would be willing to do? I am free anytime next week.
I’m very glad I met you last night, I really appreciate your advice and insight you gave me about liberal arts, rhetoric and graduate programs.
Feel free to contact me over email, or if you would rather call, my cell phone number is (xxx) xxx-xxxx.
Thank you for your time!
Student, Whitman College
For this specific job shadow experience, the company had some secrecy policies that didn’t allow non-employees beyond certain points, so my job shadow consisted mainly of an office tour and continued conversation from the networking event. He also talked about his progression through school during and after Whitman, what he would recommend, and how his Whitman experience has benefitted him today. Before I left I mentioned to him that I was looking for internship opportunities, asking if he know who I could get in contact with to inquire about my possibilities there. He told me there were no opportunities in his department, but he would ask around in different departments to see if they were looking for an intern.
Leaving the job shadow with a lot of great advice and insight on the company and what a future there would look like, I emailed him after the job shadow thanking him for taking time out of his day to accommodate me. I also reminded him to send along any contacts that might be looking for an intern. This is just one example of a successful job shadow experience. Job shadows can vary in length and information, but even realizing you don’t want to work somewhere is a successful job shadow. I highly suggest looking for opportunities to job shadow. The connections you make could possibly lead you to your future career.
Thank you. Colin for sharing this post with us!
The Spring Break Job Shadow Program is a more formally organized way for students to connect with Alumni and Whitman-affiliates about jobs/careers they might be interested for the future. Students will have the opportunity to reach out to professionals and shadow under them for any duration of time during Spring Break. If you are interested in learning more about how to get involved with the program, please email firstname.lastname@example.org!