If you’re having trouble finding a job, you might try shadowing.
The idea behind shadowing – where you follow a lawyer throughout a work day, or perhaps a work-week or more – is to get a first-hand glimpse of what the job is all about.
But shadowing has other benefits as well. It gets you out there in the real world. It expands your professional contacts. And it gives you a chance to show off your qualifications.
One career expert says the law is a perfect profession for shadowing, and that it can yield big dividends in a tight market.
“You have to be more assertive than ever with your career,” says Hallie Crawford. “[A]sking for the opportunity to shadow someone is a way to not only learn what that job is like, but to expand your network as well.”
Shadowing starts by researching law positions that match your skills and interests. Do your homework. Consider a variety of positions – from public defenders to private practitioners – to see which ones suit you best.
Then pick up the phone and ask if you can hang out together.
10 Tips to Turn Shadowing into a Paying Job
- Use available resources. Visit your school’s career center or alumni association. Drop by the local chamber of commerce. Introduce yourself. Explain that you’re looking for a shadowing opportunity.
- Make contact. Once you’ve identified a target, send a letter or e-mail requesting a shadowing appointment. Allow ample lead time. Follow up with a phone call a week later to confirm a date.
- Offer to start with lunch. It’s a nice touch, even if it’s declined.
- Dress like you mean it. Pretend you’re going to a job interview. Show up on time. Be courteous and enthusiastic.
- Be open to whatever arises. You might shadow your professional on a typical work day. Or perhaps you’ll tag along for a deposition or a meeting of the local bar. Go with the flow.
- Pay attention and soak it all up. What is the “feel” of the workplace? Breezy and casual or dressy and formal? What technology is used? Social media? What is the dominant mode of communication: email, phone, in-person? Bring along a pen and pad for taking notes.
- Be inquisitive. But don’t interfere with the workflow. Be sensitive to confidentiality and other ethical concerns.
- Come right out and ask for help in your job search. “If you have good rapport with the person you’re shadowing, consider asking for a resume critique and advice on interviewing at the company, as well as thoughts on coursework, internships, and work experience that will enable you to break into a job at that company,” says Katharine Hansen of Quintessential Careers. “Remember that the professional you’re shadowing is now a valuable member of your network.”
- Request feedback on your performance. From Hansen “Ask to spend the last few minutes of your day reviewing your experiences with the person you’re shadowing and getting answers to questions you may have.
- Send a thank-you letter. Be gracious. Ask if you can stay in touch – and request a heads-up on any job openings.
Have you shadowed someone on their job? Was it worthwhile? How did it go? Drop us a comment.
- Monster.com http://career-advice.monster.com/career-development/changing-careers/the-job-shadow-knows-try-on-a-career-before-you-commit-hot-jobs/article.aspx
- Quintessential careers http://www.quintcareers.com/job_shadowing.html
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney who has practiced North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.