UVM Shadowing Program: Information for Alumni & Parent Hosts
Career exploration can be a complex process, and we encourage students to research industries and positions so that they can make informed decisions about their career paths.
By offering a shadowing experience, you can help students get an up-close opportunity to see what a typical day in your industry looks like. This may be the first professional experience that many students will have, and it can be a fantastic learning opportunity about workplace environment and company/organization culture.
The UVM Shadowing Program aims to help students:
- Increase confidence
- Learn about a career field
- Begin to determine if this field may be an option for the future
- Understand professional etiquette
- Learn networking skills and make professional contacts
- Possibly set the stage for a future internship
- Utilize Career Center resources
The UVM Shadowing Program provides an opportunity for students to explore a career for a day over winter break (between December 18th and January 12th).
Volunteering as a shadowing host
Once you submit your shadowing host form, we will add your shadowing site to our online application system, where students will be able to view and apply to a site that matches their career interests. Once a sudent is matched with a host site, you will receive each other’s contact information. The student will then contact you to schedule a mutually convenient shadowing day between December 18th and January 12th.
Most students and hosts choose to schedule their job shadowing day during winter break (December 18th - January 12th), but you are welcome to schedule it outside of this time if it is convenient for you and your shadowing match.
What does a shadowing day look like?
On the agreed upon shadowing day, the student will arrange their own transportation and meet you at your workplace.
As an alum or parent host, we ask that you allow the shadowing student to observe your typical workplace activities, and provide them a chance to ask questions about your industry and position.
Possible activities for the day include:
- Taking a tour of your organization/department
- Sitting in on a meeting
- Talking about/demoing a current project
- Suggesting resources (websites, professional organizations) that may help them further explore your field
- Visiting with clients/constituents
- Sharing your own journey and how you ended up in this position
- Advising the student on how to make the most of their time at UVM
- Offering to review the student's resume
- Allowing the student to listen in on a phone/conference call
- Taking the student to lunch, possibly with other colleagues
After the shadowing experience, both students and hosts will complete an evaluation of the Shadowing Program. Before shadowing, students go through an on-campus Pre-Departure Session, which focuses on preparation and expectations for the shadowing day. Please also remember that students will be in different stages of the career development processes, and that for some, this will be their first professional experience in the workplace. We do not expect students to be experts in your industry – our main goal is to have them learn from this experience. We appreciate your patience and guidance as they navigate this process.
How to have a successful shadowing day
Create a shadowing day schedule, and plan activities
A full day will likely feel longer than you think! Plan varied activities and ask colleagues to help with the hosting responsibilities. Past years’ shadowing hosts shared the following advice and strategies:
- "Definitely plan on activities for the day. Set up meetings with HR and different people in the office. Invite them to meetings and brainstorms if possible. Without a plan, you can easily run out of things to talk about."
- "I recommend setting up a pretty full day including some meetings for them to attend without me so I can still get work done that isn't too exciting like responding to emails."
- "Do not try to have the student shadow you alone as it is too much for everyone. Schedule them in 30 or 60 minute windows to sit with 4-5 employees in other functions so they see a cross-section of work. If possible have them attend different meetings, even if you are not there, so they see how issues get discussed and decisions made. Where appropriate, get them out to client meetings. At the end of the day set aside 30-45 minutes to help them process everything they saw."
- "I try to set the student up with entry level hires who are closest to the job market to give current advice (and serve as a network).
- "I have done this program for the last several years, and it has been most successful when I've hosted a student on a busy day. If my calendar isn't full, I've tried arranging time for my student with colleagues as well. That can also be a nice break, since hosting someone for a whole day can be a long time if you're also trying to get work done."
- "We took him to a business event, where he could listen to business leaders. Then took him to City Hall and showed him how to research a property. Then to lunch with staff and told him that he could call us anytime. I think it's important for them to see different businesses and attend business events."
Consider offering the student a hands-on experience
Past shadowing hosts have had students:
- Write a blog post about their shadowing day for the company website
- Provide a student or Generation Z perspective in a marketing meeting
- Help set up or break down an event
- Post on the company’s social media sites
Help set the student up for success
"I highly encourage a pre-visit call with the student to get better insight into the student's interests and with helping set expectations. This makes for a smooth shadowing experience."
After a shadowing experience, many students reflect upon how nervous they were on the shadowing day, and how they wished they had asked more questions. The shadowing day may be your student’s first experience in a professional workplace, and they are likely still building their professional confidence. Many students are nervous about getting in your way, and want to make sure to put on a good impression. Though UVM coaches student shadowers about professionalism and preparation, your students will also benefit from hearing advice from you as a shadowing host.
You can help set them up for success by doing the following:
- Talk with your student about what the shadowing day will look like. Who will the student meet? Where will they go? Is there any important context that they should know about meetings or activities? Is there background information that the student can read before the shadowing day?
- Ask the student if there is anything that they are nervous or confused about, and address it before they show up for the shadowing day.
- Let the student know that it’s ok to ask questions during their visit. If there is a best time and place to ask (e.g. after a meeting is finished), let the student know when and where that will be.
- Identify with the student’s journey. Share your early career experiences, and what the transition from college to work was like for you. Give them some advice on how to be successful as a young professional.
- Ask the student about their goals for the day. Are they just beginning to explore career options? Or are they committed to this field of work and trying to make contacts for job and internship opportunities? Is there anything in particular that they might like to see?
- Ask about the student’s expectations for the shadowing day, and make your own expectations clear. Discuss:
- Dress code
- Plans for lunch (should they bring food? Be prepared to buy it?)
- Nuances about company culture or etiquette
- What you expect them to know about your organization before arriving, and how they can learn it
Sharing your shadowing day: #UVMshadow
If you or your organization use Twitter or Instagram, you can use the hashtag #UVMshadow to share a picture or note about your shadowing day! It's a great way to connect with UVM and other alumni, and a chance to show your Catamount pride.
Please contact Amanda Chase in the Career Center if you have questions about the program or host form.