The Center for Life Beyond Reed

Job Shadows: Any Time, Everywhere

A job shadow is a chance to observe and follow Reed alumni, parents, and anyone you want to ask for a short period of time, to allow you to explore what happens in a field in which you have interest. Here's a five step guide to help you create a shadow experience. 

1. Determine what interests you

What's your area of interest? What excites you? If you need ideas, start with our Communities of Purpose.

2. Search alumni and networks

Search the alumni directory, check out Handshake, and talk with our staff. Some alumni don't provide contact info in IRIS so look them up in LinkedIn and/or focus on people with email addresses. Ask your family about connections they have in fields and locations you are interested in. Think about local businesses you patronize, places you volunteer. When you find someone that seems interesting, it's time to reach out via email, LinkedIn message, or if they're connected to Reed, on Switchboard.

3. Make an ask

Succinctly explain in a brief email why you've contacted them, who you are, and how you hope they might help you. Remember that you are asking them to provide an opportunity to shadow them for a short time. Look them up on LinkedIn as well. You might find more current information than what's in IRIS. Yes or no questions are easy to say no to, so try to use suggestions instead. Here's an example of an ask:

Dear [use Ms. Mr. or Dr. plus last name], 

I researched your contact information in IRIS, Reed's alumni directory. I'm a junior chemistry major and I'm looking for an opportunity to shadow an alumni in my field of interest this [ex. summer, winter, January, etc]. Your directory profile says that you're working as a _____ at _____. 

I would be grateful if you would consider allowing me to spend a few (1-3) days shadowing you at your work place so that I can better understand the field and gain insights and advice about how to approach my career in this area. The date range is [Jan 1 - 20, or whatever].

If you are open to a conversation with me, I would like to discuss this at your convenience. Please let me know what day/time works best for you.

Thank you,

Your name and year [ex. Jo Bane '17]

4. Promptly follow up and prepare travel plans

People want to help students, and you may not get a response the first time due to their travel/work/life schedule. Shoot them another note in five days. If they still don't respond, that's okay—just ask more people. When you do hear back from someone, great! Make sure to respond promptly. Keep in mind that you've asked only for the opportunity to shadow them. Transportation and housing will be up to you to provide. Sometimes people offer additional help, but never expect it. If you need to find somewhere to stay, try searching the alumni directory after checking the "local hosts" box. That check box indicates people who are willing to help with housing in some way.

5. Success! Tell us about your shadow

If you secure a shadow, please send us a note and let us know with whom you're shadowing so that we can note that person's volunteer service and so that someone else in the future may know that the person offered a shadow. If you have questions or concerns, let us know. Good luck!