What Is Job Shadowing?

You’ve landed a new position and need to learn how to do the job effectively. Now you must gain the necessary insights and experience to excel as a newbie. A smart approach that many companies use as part of their job training for new hires is called job shadowing. But what is job shadowing, and what are the benefits of using this technique?

Job Shadowing Definition

Job shadowing is an on-the-job training approach that involves a new employee working in parallel with a more experienced employee to learn the ins and outs of the position firsthand. Through job shadowing — which involves observing a veteran employee doing their job or literally following them around their workspace as they perform it — you can gain a window into the daily details and nuances of a job that might not be clear through more generalized job training methods, like reading a handbook or watching a video.

While other forms of training may give you the “theory” of how the job should work in an ideal world, job shadowing will help you see these theories in practice. The result of an effective job shadow is that you’ll emerge as a new employee with a snapshot of what’s required to succeed in the position.

[Read: Work Productivity Tips for Remote Jobs.]

What’s a Virtual Job Shadow?

While job shadowing was traditionally done in person, with both the new employee and experienced employee working side by side in an office setting, virtual job shadowing has become much more prevalent over the last few years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual job shadowing entails the same elements as traditional job shadowing, except that virtual job shadowing is conducted remotely, via online tools such as video calls or videoconferencing.

[Read: How to Ask to Work Remotely Full Time]

What Do You Do at a Job Shadow?

Whether your job shadowing experience will be in person or virtual, it’s important to know what to expect and how to prepare. While it might seem like all you need to do as the trainee at a job shadow is just show up and listen to the person training you, there are steps you can take to maximize the effectiveness of the process. Here are some tips:

Be observant. The key to a successful job shadow, whether it’s conducted in an office or via video, is your ability as a trainee to tune into what the experienced employee is showing you. Stay focused on watching what’s happening, and stay alert for opportunities to ask questions when something seems unclear.

Take notes. One way to be sure that you make the most of your job shadowing opportunity is by taking notes on the key points discussed during the day. This is particularly important when specific processes, procedures and passwords are shared. Get these important points down in writing so that you don’t have to circle back after the shadow asking about issues that were already explained.

Write out questions in advance. Before you show up (or dial in) for your job shadow training, it’s smart to think through some questions that you may have about the position. When you’re in the observing role, you may be so busy watching the action and taking notes that you might forget to ask about things you need to know. Be proactive and avoid forgetting crucial details by jotting down questions you have in advance. Let the employee who you are shadowing know that you’ve prepared some questions to ensure they carve out time during the day to answer them. You’ll likely have some questions that are very specific to the role you’re in; additionally, you can ask some general questions like following:

— What do you wish you knew when you first started this job?

— What have been the biggest challenges been in this role?

— Can you share the solutions you found to these problems?

— Do you have any “insider” tips to share with me based on what you know?

Make sure your tech tools are up to speed. To conduct a virtual job shadow effectively, the “trainer” or experienced employee must be able to walk the new hire through key steps needed on the job and use the video format to show how to perform various job responsibilities. The technology component is critical to the success of virtual job shadowing, so it’s important to have reliable online communication tools that enable both parties to see and hear each other clearly.

[READ: How to Write a Professional Thank-You Email.]

What Are the Benefits of Job Shadowing?

When you use job shadowing as a training technique, you can get up to speed more quickly in your new role by:

In a nutshell, whether through traditional job shadowing or a virtual job shadow, the shadowing experience gives new hires a unique form of training in which they can see an experienced employee demonstrate exactly what to do in a role. Job shadowing also facilitates two-way communication between the trainer and trainee, to ensure that both are on the same page and that they can troubleshoot together as they go through a typical day on the job.

— Watching a skilled employee do the job fluently.

— Hearing an experienced employee share advice about what works and point out pitfalls to avoid.

— Learning new skills and techniques by having them demonstrated.

— Having the opportunity to ask questions to someone who is already an expert in the position.

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What Is Job Shadowing? originally appeared on usnews.com

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