Today’s workday leaves little time for extra, volunteer duties. We often spend the day on a dead run and still find several items on the to-do list left for the next day or to be taken home. So why would you volunteer to be a job shadow mentor?  For one, it will remind you of your personal career journey and give you a unique perspective on your day-to-day endeavors when viewing it through a different set of eyes. You will be allowing students to connect with an adult in the career field that interests them. It is often difficult for a teacher with limited exposure or experience in an array of career options to ‘convince’ a student why what they are doing in the classroom will help them in the future. You could be proactive, and in turn have the opportunity to introduce students to the work requirements and essential skills they need to be successful in the 21st century workforce, equipping them to step up and fill the leadership roles of tomorrow. Finally, you would be helping to build community partnerships, making your community a better place to live.

Kim Depue, Transitions and Careers teacher at Marietta High School, offers advice for professionals participating in job shadowing opportunities:

Tips for Hosting a Job Shadow Student

1. Create a rapport with your mentee. They are nervous, but eager to learn. Try to plan some initial time in the beginning to introduce yourself and tell them a little about your background. Put them at ease. Tell them where to put their jacket, what they will need for the day — let them know the game plan so they know what to expect.

2. For many students, this is their first time being on a real job site for a career they have only read about, heard about, or viewed on television. It is important they are given a realistic experience. If there are any hands on activities or parts of the job that they are permitted to do, encourage them to step in and participate. We want them to see a common, normal day. You do not need to go out of your way to plan something especially fun or exciting, it will benefit the student best to be able to experience a true vision of what a day-to-day routine entails.

3. Every opportunity you have, try to relate your career to their current educational opportunities. Students frequently fail to see the relationship between the courses they are taking in school and the career they are exploring. You have the ability to influence the student in a manner that could make a huge difference in how they view school. Draw connections to subjects such as math and communication, as well as essential skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, working with others, meeting deadlines, etc.

4. Take time to discuss essential skills needed to be a successful employee. Be honest when describing basic job requirements and disciplinary measures. Tell them your guidelines for tardiness, sick leave, failure to meet deadlines, inability to work with your colleagues, dress code, cell phone and social media rules, confidentiality, inappropriate language and comments. Public schools give students multiple opportunities to succeed and often give them false beliefs about the work world, in turn failing to motivate them to be career or college prepared.

5. Finally, share your career path with the student. How did you obtain this position? What type of college did you choose, and why? What best prepared you for this position, and what steps would you encourage the student to take next? Are there different pathways you can follow to arrive at the same position?

If it is appropriate, mentors and mentees should exchange professional email addresses so that the student may contact them later with questions. It is a wonderful way for the student to start building networks and have another adult to confer with when choosing future high school courses, college programs, internship programs and so forth.

The Architecture Department at Pickering Associates with their shadow student from MHS.

The Architecture Department at Pickering Associates with their shadow student from MHS.

Kim’s Transitions and Careers class allows all sophomores at Marietta High School to begin to prepare themselves for life after high school, teaching them professional etiquette and presenting them with information on a wide array of career options. As job shadowing experience is a course requirement, students have been connected with businesses across the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Kim Depue is also a part of Building Bridges to Careers  (BBC) an initiative whose mission is to develop and facilitate community networks that engage Washington County students in a variety of community based experiences and expand their awareness of education and career options so that they are motivated to create and attain their life goals. The organization has made significant strides in implementing real-life, critical thinking problem scenarios in the classroom that connect the classroom curriculum to what the student might face in the workforce. This also exposes students to career options they might not have known about otherwise. For more information on the BBC and their efforts here in the Mid-Ohio Valley, visit their website or contact BBC Coordinator Tonya Anderson.